Category Archives: Current Affairs

The MultiCultural Edge: Who Are Tomorrow’s Super Consumers?

Recent Nielsen data confirms a seismic shift that is occurring in the demographics of American consumers. First released in 2015, Nielsen’s report on The Multicultural Edge revealed that multicultural consumers are “the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population.” While Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and other multicultural groups currently make up around 40% of the population, they are on track to be a numeric majority by 2044.

This young and growing segment of the consumer population is already driving changing trends in groceries and beverages and is poised to greatly impact markets such as technology, entertainment, and fashion and beauty as well. This segment of consumers offers an exciting opportunity and a challenge for today’s brand-makers, entrepreneurs, and innovators. How will we respond?
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Crisis in Consumer Trust: The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer

Early each year, leading global communications and marketing firm Edelman releases the results of their Trust Barometer survey. The Edelman Trust Barometer is the culmination of a global study of consumer trust in four key institutions – business, government, NGOs, and media. The newest iteration, conducted in 28 countries and encompassing more than 33,000 respondents, places a finger on the pulse of consumers across the world.

Would you be surprised to hear that in 2017 Edelman finds that “trust is in crisis around the world”? For the first time since they began tracking these metrics, “the majority of respondents now lack full belief that the overall system is working for them.” What might be at the root of this global decline in trust in our key institutions? How can we begin to rebuild consumer trust in an authentic and sustainable manner?
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Leadership & Continuity: The Peaceful Transition of Power

This past Saturday, March 4th, 2017, was the 220th anniversary of the first transition of presidential power in the United States. I first became aware of this historic significance through the email newsletter of Rev. Tom Are, Jr., the pastor at Village Presbyterian Church. Shortly after the conclusion of our long and combative 2016 presidential campaign and election, Tom thoughtfully wrote,

“On March 4, 1797, a remarkable thing occurred in human history. John Adams became the second president of the United States. What was noteworthy on that day was the lack of violence. It was not a coup. It was not a violent overthrow. It was the peaceful transition of power. The peaceful transition of power remains a rare and beautiful thing in this world. It also means that whether grateful or grieving, we do not need to be afraid. Whether you are relieved or grieved, we are in this together. Be grateful for the peaceful transition of power and as always continue living toward God’s promised day.”

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The Real Unemployment Issue is Underemployment

We’ve been seeing some heartening numbers on unemployment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which currently places the unemployment rate at a very low 4.9%. However, while this number demonstrates substantial economic recovery since the Great Recession of 2008, overall public opinion isn’t so optimistic. In fact, Rasmussen Reports reveals that only 31% of Americans feel that the country is “heading in the right direction,” and this number has been significantly low for several years now.

While economic struggles and unemployment are only a part of the problems facing American workers, they’re a large driver of general discontent. I’m sure we all know someone who is struggling to find the caliber of work they would prefer or to find a job at all, and the stress this places on individuals and families is enormous. With unemployment rates so low, why might this be the case?
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The New Landscape of Information: 3 Consequences of the Trust Disparity

If you're joining us for the second installment of our series on the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, you understand there are a few key elements of today's society that are contributing to the growing trust disparity between the “informed” and “mass” populations. As Richard Edelman sums up

“Trust is rising in the elite or “informed public” group – those with at least a college education, who are very engaged in media, and have an income in the top 25 percent. However, in the 'mass population' (the remaining 85 percent of our sample), trust levels have barely budged since the Great Recession.”

As it currently sits, the trust gap difference between the informed public and the masses is nearly 19 percent. When these views become the norm – when the staggering majority accepts skepticism as a consumer mindset and cynicism as a political platform – consequences arise. To quote Holly Green, CEO and managing director of The Human Factor, in an article in Forbes

“Putting our collective cynicism aside, this pervasive lack of trust represents a leadership crisis of staggering proportions. When we don’t believe that our business and political leaders tell the truth, it sets in motion a tidal wave of negative attitudes and ways of thinking and behaving that gets in the way of achieving our goals.”

Though you might have a “so what” reaction to the idea that large portions of the population have diminished trust in government and business, we're now seeing that trust levels have a measurable impact on how our society functions and how consumers interact with businesses. And this impact demonstrates that trust is a must for businesses to cultivate. 

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Why this recession will last longer than expected

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' July 2 Economic Situation Summary surprised a lot of people: investors, pundits and politicos alike. No green sprouts here.

The facts are clear:

  • Total June job losses reversed a recent trend, posting a staggering loss of 467,000 jobs.
  • Equally troubling is the decline in weekly hours of work.

This really should not be a surprise. The larger story had already been reported in an excellent article on June 12. Reporting in USAToday, Dennis Cauchon turned in a well researched story that points to the real problem. Unemployment is not the major story.

IT'S THE UNDEREMPLOYMENT, STUPID.

– The hours worked per week in May (then June) represent record lows (data from 1964 forward).
– Weekly earnings for private sector jobs are down since 1Q09.
– Cauchon reports that businesses cut wages by 6.2% in the first quarter. He quotes Laura Sejen of Watson Wyatt as, "this recession is unlike any since the Depression."

No doubt, this recession will be protracted. Before there can a real turnaround, the economy will have to grow enough to reverse both the underemployment, and then the unemployment.

MY PREDICTIONS:

1. High unemployment: 10+% for the next 24 months.

2. Stock market: stagnant with weak earnings for 24 months

3. Commodity prices: soft with the exception of energy.

4. Long term interest rates: rising based on US deficits.

China & Food Policies

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Today I heard Dr. Dave Weatherspoon, Dean, Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, explain China’s food policy for dealing with the projected exponential growth in demand for food.

Professor Weatherspoon pointed out that:

– China’s middle class totals 300,000,000 people and is growing rapidly.
– The economy is expected to continue its 8% annual growth.
– As incomes rise, the demand for more, higher value food per capita grows.
– In a county with land and water constraints and a food system build on small farms, the long term outlook is for China to be a significant net food importer.

So, how are Chinese policymakers planning for a future built on food imports?

The answer, in part, is to help African nations build their agricultural capacity and infrastructure by investing $25 billion in Africa’s agriculture system over three years, offering 4000 agriculture-related scholarships per year and helping to build/rebuild infrastructure to support agriculture exports.

He told of a recent visit to Namibia, a nation of barely 1 million people. He reported that throughout the country there were crews of Chinese workers repairing roads – reported 40,000 workers.

He left the audience with the profound sense of how rapidly the worldwide food system is changing and how important our food policies really are.