Business Week: Pinning Down the New American Shopper by Mark Penn

Business Week

Pinning Down the New American Shopper
It’s about information, value, and being green: Today’s discriminating consumers are careful about how they spend, and they’re concerned about the planet

By Mark Penn and E. Kinney Zalesne

The consumer that marketers have had a lot of fun selling to over the last few decades is disappearing. Those were the days—when a snappy jingle did the trick, a celebrity carried the day, and a higher price signaled higher quality.

The old obsession with personality, emotion, and overarching experience is giving way to the green eyeshades of facts, research, and greater rationality. Not all consumers are changing, but enough are to start altering the way we market to and treat consumers. Originality and zaniness will still have their place, but marketers will have to deliver some cold, hard messages at the same time.

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Psychology Today: A Personal Interview with Mark Penn about Getting Through Tough Times in Life and Politics

Why don’t you start by telling me some of the toughest moments you’ve been through when advising people in tough situations.

The truth is that in today’s world, there’s no success without failure. If you can’t tolerate a failure, it’s virtually impossible to have a successful life. The road to success is paved with roadblocks. Difficult moments, things that have gone wrong, attacks you didn’t expect. To be successful you have to be able to overcome and learn from failure. The moment you lose that perspective, you don’t climb back from that.

Maybe it’s easier said than done. How do you remind yourself at the toughest moment that it’s an inevitable part of success and that you just need to get through it? How do you keep a long-term view?

You’re right to say that it’s not easy—to really understand what you’re about, where you’re going. If you look at movies, almost all movies and popular culture are based on the idea of someone who’s different standing up. But in reality, being different and standing up and having a counter view is one of the hardest things to do in our society.

I try to remember that it’s not necessarily about what everybody else thinks at that moment. It’s really about, “Are you going to have the kind of strength and fortitude to carry through with what you believe in, even against the odds?” That’s what’s made me a tough competitor and a fighter that people relied upon through their difficult situations. When you find yourself in difficult situations, are you the shoemaker without shoes? You have to be able to find some of that personal fortitude.

Are you thinking of any movies in particular?

I grew up on movies like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Inherit the Wind that were always about standing up for what you believe regardless of the pressure. Today you can go to even kids’ movies and they are always about the bee, the penguin, or the cub who grows up by standing up.

My most successful strategies—like “soccer moms” in ‘96 for President Clinton or the Upstate Strategy for Hillary in 2000—were always opposed by just about everyone, and I can tell you that fighting for things outside the zone of conventional wisdom will always take a lot of flak, and a lot of energy to sustain.

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DMA Point Magazine: The New American Shopper by Mark Penn: How Business Can Make the Most of the Current Economic Climate

DMA Point Magazine: The New American Shopper by Mark Penn

Read The New American Shopper by Mark Penn and Kinney Zalesne, featured in the Direct Marketing Association’s Point Magazine (Spring 2009)

Wall Street Journal Microtrends Column: The Impressionable Elites Get Snookered

Wall Street Journal Microtrends Column
By MARK PENN with E. KINNEY ZALESNE
From The Wall Street Journal Microtrends Column
Published December 19, 2008

For most of this century, con men and hucksters preyed on the uneducated and the elderly who couldn’t read the fine print. Some still are.

But now we learn that the real mother lode for con artists is not composed of uninformed dowagers who were left an estate they don’t know how to manage, but rather the Impressionable Elites* of country clubs, and the rarefied hedge fund managers of Wall Street and Greenwich.

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Politico: Most affluent voters key to Obama sweep

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published November 11, 2008

Barack Obama promised he would lower taxes for 95 percent of Americans and presumably raise them for the 5 percent who benefited most under President Bush’s tax policies. But, remarkably, the most affluent 5 percent supported Obama and that was perhaps the key to his victory last week.

This group — and the rise of a new elite class of voters — is at the heart of the fast-paced changes in demographics affecting the political, sociological and economic landscape of the country. While there has been some inflation over the past 12 years, the exit poll demographics show that the fastest growing group of voters in America has been those making over $100,000 a year in income. In 1996, only 9 percent of the electorate said their family income was that high. Last week it had grown to 26 percent — more than one in four voters. And those making over $75,000 are up to 15 percent from 9 percent. Put another way, more than 40 percent of those voting earned over $75,000, making this the highest-income electorate in history.

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Politico: Obama has advantage on economy

Politico

By MARK PENN
Published September 29, 2008

The financial crisis has redefined the presidential race, bringing into stark relief the candidate who can deal with the complexities of the global markets and return the country to prosperity over the next four years.

The race is no longer about change, experience, Iraq, tax cuts or universal health care. The job posting has been fundamentally altered.

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