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April 2011
Cropped 2011 head shotSpring Has Sprung 

I keep thinking of that scene from "The Wizard of Oz" when they come out of the scary woods into an open verdant field, and can see the Emerald City on the horizon. That's what April feels like to me. We've had a difficult winter in the Northeast, and while I am not a weather wimp, I can't deny that I am very happy winter is over.
This is a little late because I am on vacation, at a beach in North Carolina--almost South Carolina. I am hoping to bring back some of the gorgeous warm, sunny weather.
Happy Passover, Happy Easter, Happy Birthday to my husband, son, and several friends--and to you, if your birthday is this month. 
Marketing to Our Changing Population
Understanding What Resonates 

The  2010 US Census will show that we are a much more diverse population than ever before, with growing populations of Asians and folks from the sub-Asian "continent," as well as lots of Latin Americans, African-Americans, and Eastern Europeans. Without even seeing the statistics from the US Census Bureau, we know about these changes just by looking at television. When we see Indians, Chinese, Koreans, Thais and many more nationalities on network television shows and newscasts, we know there has been a sea-change in our population. Marketers must become sensitive to the cultural values, and even language nuances of these cultures in order to gain new customers.

  • What are the cultural values of a particular population? Education? Wealth? Family? Religion?
  • What are the major tenets of Hinduism, Islam, or even the national expressions of Catholicism?
  • How does your category of products or services fit into the cultural superstructure of a given ethnic group?
  • What words or phrases should be used to help people connect with your brand? Which ones will turn people off?
  • How should you sell the value proposition? What will people in a give group pay more for? What will they never pay more for?

As with any brand, marketers need to know who their target audiences are. Smart marketers are always looking for new markets, in order to increase market share and, of course, sales. It could be very important to know if your brand will find fertile ground with certain groups of new Americans--or not. It is just as important to know what DOESN'T work as what does work. Why spin your wheels if you know that your product just does not appeal to a particular group because of cultural values, religious values, or tastes? On the other hand, if there is a way to communicate effectively with a certain group and persuade them to buy, you should know how to do that.


Someone very smart said that among the things that are certain (like death and taxes) is change. Some people are afraid of change--it requires effort and risk-taking. Others embrace it because it offers opportunity; but if you reach out for opportunity you must prepare for it.

Green Marketing

A Fad or A Real Trend?Wind farm


With crude oil topping $100 per barrel, and gasoline reaching $4 per gallon, our thoughts turn to two things: alternative energy and additional drilling. One is definitely "green" and the other is not. This raises the question: is the greening of America a trend or a fad? Is it something that is popular today, but will fade and disappear like pet rocks and disco? Or is it a paradigm shift? This is important to figure out if you want to incorporate eco-friendliness into your marketing and communications planning.


In Raleigh, NC there is a Whole Foods Store that uses rain water (collected in a large cistern visible on the side of the store) for all non-drinking water purposes (flushing toilets, keeping vegetables moist, etc). Many new office buildings have solar panels and energy-efficient windows to save on energy. About seven years ago, I conducted a study among architects and interior designers who decried the disinterest of corporate clients in green buildings because it cost more. Two years later, they couldn't get enough LEED certified professionals to fill the requests for the buildings that are now becoming the norm. Businesspeople realized that spending a little more up front would save them on energy costs for years, paying back the additional investment many times over. That's a trend.


On the other hand, we do not seem to be able to translate that economic equation to our dependence on fossil fuels. Consumers, politicians, and businesspeople have yet to be convinced that an investment in alternative fuels and energy sources--in a significant way--is a worthwhile investment, with more than just a monetary benefit down the road.


As many of you have heard me say, it is never the price, it is always the value. So what is a marketer to do?

  • First, determine how consumers or business customers view your product's connection to eco-friendliness. Do they "get" the connection? If not, you may need to explain it.
  • Then determine the cost implications--including transportation, product components, and manufacturing processes. Is it a deal-killer? Do people need more time to acclimate to the new reality?
  • Test the best ways to communicate these values among your target audience. Several years ago, we did focus groups for an energy generation company and while people espoused interest in "green" energy, they didn't want to pay more for it. What was worse, the communications strategies tested fell flat--they failed the credibility test. 
  • Find out what has worked in other categories--like hybrid cars and solar panels--and see how you can leverage those values for your brand.

While this may seem like shameless self-promotion, it is truly a case of investigating the marketplace before embarking on a new product launch, communications campaign, or logo redesign. Pulling the trigger on major changes like these prematurely can be very risky.

Upcoming Events
April 27, 5:30-7:30pm

As discussed above, every marketer and communicator needs to know about the different cultures in America--and around the world, for that matter. IABC-Long Island presents a panel of experts who will tell us "What You Need to Know About Multi-Cultural Marketing." It will be held at the Viana Hotel and Spa in Westbury, and everyone receives a 15% discount for a spa visit! To find out more, register and pay online, visit the IABC-LI site. If you prefer to pay at the door you can sign up at for the same cost. Walk-ins pay $5 more, so sign up!
April 13, 8-10am
SMPS-LI is featuring Graceworks, who will inform you about your leadership style and how to motivate others in your organization.  "The Leading Edge: Where Vision Becomes Reality" offers a panel of experts running an interactive workshop. Go to for more information, and to register.  

May 11, 5:30-7pm 

IABC-LI is offering a special workshop on "Unleashing The Power of Linked-In." Led by Jerry Allocca of Core Interactive, this program is FREE for IABC members (including NYC IABC) and only $25 for non-members. It will be held at the offices of Meyer, Suozzi, English, and Klein, in Garden City. Please register at our web site as it is a limited audience event. You can also email Ann with your registration, as usual.
This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:

Ann Middleman