Whether you're a sports-inclined brand or not, there's a lot to be learned from World Cup '14. There's a lot that could be said about the game and the players, or the multi-screen storytelling that made this event a digital dream. But those things will be there four years from now. What's important today are some particularly powerful consumer insights that marketers may or may not have noticed -- insights that are relevant year-round and applicable in any context, from sporting events to shopping events.
1. Millennials think globally. The pendulum swings in terms of U.S. attitudes toward immigration and bilingualism. Some years are better than others and, depending upon your worldview, "better" can mean different things. Regardless of your personal perspective, it's time for marketers to embrace what is simply a reality impacting audiences of all ages, but is particularly important to millennials: There is interest in and access to every corner of the world and every language this world has to offer. Companies seek out language skills and international insights from job candidates. Cultural agility is a competitive advantage. Your brand must be culturally agile as well. Be careful of "total market" promises of efficiency. In a nutshell, a total market approach means integrating diverse segments and often leads to one cross-cultural approach, or a unified strategy. Sounds promising, but with an emphasis on consumer commonalities vs. differences, a total market approach often leads marketers and their agencies to blur or banish cultural cues in favor of Kumbaya compromise and consensus. Dilute the power of compelling cultural insights at your brand's peril.
2. The phrase "color blind" wasn't coined by a person of color -- nor was "post-racial." The World Cup reminded us that the globe is still wrestling with issues of racism and, whether we want to admit it or not, the U.S. is no exception. Yes, there is progress. Yes, there is hope for future generations, but not if we continue to propagate the myth that we should be blind to color, when we know that's simply not possible or preferable. Since when is going "blind" a goal? Millennials are color-confident or color-comfortable. Some might say color-courageous. For millennials, erasing color isn't the point. Embracing it is. For marketers, that means going deeper than a few diverse casting choices. It's not just about having varied skin colors in sight. It's about having diverse cultural insight. There's a big difference and the World Cup put those differences front and center.
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Like a good party, you should be kicking yourself if you weren't there. Sunday, July 6 concluded the four-day event known as the Essence Festival. The event celebrated its 20th anniversary with a bang, exceeding attendance expectations while continuing to be the number one gathering event of Black women. While over 100,000 Black women converged on New Orleans, so did Prince, Hollywood, think-tank representatives and staples of the brand world. Like no other event, Essence Festival was an opportunity to engage married, single, millennial, gen x, baby boomers and all socio-economic levels of Black women all together, all at the same time.
Walmart, McDonald's, State Farm, Verizon, MSNBC and Ford were some of the most visible brands present at the packed convention center and the Super Dome, but other smaller brands made sure to make an appearance as well. The weekend's activities included networks previewing their fall programs, healthcare brands participating in an empowerment zone, killer concerts and panel discussions on everything ranging from gun control to entrepreneurship and technology -- all led by some of the nation's most important thought leaders.
Why? Because this weekend was ground zero for brands wanting an audience with Black women. And where else could they maximize their marketing dollars to reach every single segment of Black women, as well as a growing segment of the festival, Black men.
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