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June 2013

Cropped 2011 head shotGrads and Dads 


To all who have children or family members graduating (whether from pre-school or medical school), congratulations. We've all experienced the exhilerating sense of accomplishment that graduation signifies. It is worthy of a great celebration.


And to all you dads, you deserve a special day, too. It is heartening to me to see how many dads take the "job" seriously--from diapers to day trips, you guys rock!


At last, I am able to hand off the "gavel" of IABC/Long Island to an excellent successor, Jerry Allocca of Core Interactive. It's been a wonderful experience running this professional association for three years. I recommend it highly for the experience of leadership and the gratification of volunteering for this kind of organization.


My thanks to Carol Simas, of Pinpoint Sage--my guru of published information--for sending me information on Gen-Y, below!

Cheerios Commercial

What Is All The Fuss About?  


Cheerios kidI am old enough to remember when the only African-Americans on TV were maids or some other servile figures. One of the first break-throughs was Diahann Carroll's sitcom "Julia," in which she played a nurse (okay, it was a baby step) and a single mom (widow). But what was important was the normative, middle class setting. It was, perhaps, a bit disingenuous when it premiered in September 1968, to believe that this woman could so easily assimilate into "white" society, but that assumption was at least a positive aspiration.


So here we are, 45 years later, having elected an African-American president, and some people are upset that a well-respected breakfast food brand depicts an interracial family in one of its commercials. Some might characterize the decision to film, and then air this commercial as brave, even ground-breaking. But is it? Or is it simply a recognition of the normality of interracial families, and the obvious fact that they eat Cheerios, too?   


A report released last year by the Pew Research Center estimates the number of interracial marriages at 4.8 million--8.4% of current marriages, up from 3.2% in 1980. Not all of those are black/white marriages; some are black/asian or black/hispanic. The result is a large increase of interracial children. The good news is that this doesn't seem to bother very many people. In fact, 83% of Americans approve of interracial dating, up from 48% in 1987. 


The better news is that the folks least bothered by it are Millennials, or Gen-Y. These are our future leaders--in business, politics, and the arts. They are coming of age in the most diverse society in history. It is unremarkable to them to interact with an African-American doctor, a Hispanic teacher, or an Asian lawyer. Sixty-one percent of 18- to 29-year-olds say that mixed marriages are good for society, compared to 28% of those 65 and older.


So why was there such a vitriolic reaction to this adorable commercial that Cheerios shut down its "comment" section on YouTube? First, good for Cheerios that they shut off racist comments on YouTube but didn't shut down the ad! Meredith Tutterow, associate marketing director for Cheerios, said "There are many kinds of families and Cheerios just wants to celebrate them all." But it demonstrates what Daniel Lichter, a sociology professor at Cornell University, pointed out: "Mixed race children have blurred America's color line...But America still has a long way to go."


I often point out to clients that age is a moving target. Each year, people move from one age range to another. And they take with them attitudes developed when they "come of age," which is typically 18 to 29. This is why Baby Boomers (how ironic that we're still calling the newest senior citizens "babies") are so different from former cohorts of retirees. And it's why Gen-Y, growing up in a true melting pot, is ushering in a post-racial society. It's sad that there are still some who would cling to segregationist attitudes, but we should realize that those folks are decidedly in the minority. 

Speaking of Gen-Y

Shopping Is A Form of Entertainment            


Seven out of ten Gen-Y women consider shopping a form of entertainment and something to share with friends and family, according to the Urban Land Institute. The figure for men is about 50%. Moreover, African-Americans and Hispanics enjoy shopping more than their Caucasian peers (these designations tend to be self-reported, so multi-racial respondents choose their own identities). In spite of having grown up with computers and smart phones practically attached to their arms, these consumers continue to visit "bricks and mortar" retailers. In fact, more than a third of Gen-Yers "love" shopping (37%), while 48% "enjoy" it. Only 16% think of it as a chore or hate it. There are some very good things about this:

  • It allows for social interaction (actual conversation!), as opposed to the image of these young people as sedentary, minimally communicative texters.
  • It allows retailers to sell their goods person-to-person.
  • It can revive urban and suburban "downtowns" with small specialty shops as well as strip malls.
  • It builds jobs, whereas technology generally reduces the work force.

While this is good news for retailers, it also presents a major challenge to them. These young shoppers bore easily, so retailers have to keep the stock and the facilities themselves fresh, in order to attract repeat customers. An example of this is the variety of retail establishments visited by Gen-Y shoppers at least once a month:

  • Nearly all visit discount department stores (91%).
  • Three in four go to neighborhood and community shopping centers (74%).
  • Two-thirds visit enclosed malls, full line department stores (64% each) and big-box power centers (63%).
  • Just over half shop at chain apparel stores (58%) and neighborhood business districts (54%).
What happened to the overwhelming digital proclivities of these young people? Nothing--they tend to research products online, but then shop at stores because of the social element, mentioned above. Nearly half spend more than an hour a day looking at retail sites to research products, compare prices, and "try out" things before they buy. They also respond to flash sales and discount offers. In addition, 91% actually bought something online over the previous 6 months.
Where do they get the money to do all this shopping? The demographics of this study indicate that Gen-Y is not poor. Nearly half (46%) earn more than $50,000 per year. Of course, there is an uneven distribution of income by age, since the younger part of this cohort is still in school or working part-time. However, this is a well-educated cohort, with one-third having attained a college education, or beyond (35%) and another one-third having "some college" (they may still be in school), or technical training (37%).
The implications for urban and suburban development are encouraging, with the caveat of needing to constantly refresh the environment or risk becoming "yesterday's store." For all the pundits who decried the death of "bricks and mortar" establishments, I am reminded of the line from Monty Python And the Holy Grail, in the "Black Death" scene: "I'm not dead yet!"
Upcoming Events
June 5th, 11:30am-1:30pm


IABC/LI is holding its annual Achievement Awards luncheon at the Crest Hollow Country Club. This year, the organization is honoring outstanding communicators and organizations for their work during and after Hurricane Sandy. There will also be a raffle for several donated gifts, to benefit Autism Speaks For more information and to register, go to the  web siteor you can pay at the door.
June 8th, 9am to 2pm
Women In Communications is hosting a "Careers in the Media" for high school students who are thinking about the media as a career. The keynoter is Lola Ogunnaike, Contributor, Today and BET. It will be held at LIM College, 12 E. 53rd St. in Manhattan. For more information and registration, click here.
June 26th, 6-9pm
For those who are already working, Women In Communications presents "Night of the Coaches With Speed Networking" at NYU's Kimmel Center, 60 Washington Square South (W.4th St), in Manhattan. For more information and registration,  click here. 
June 23-26, 2013 
There is still time to register for IABC's World Conference in New York City! This amazing opportunity to meet business communicators from all over the world will be held at the New York Hilton. Click here to learn more about it, and to register. 

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