Americans are More “Nostalgic”

John Hope-Johnstone

A couple of years ago, I had the honor of giving a talk about Social Media and Tourism to a class at Oregon State University. From that talk I made good friends with two of the students who both joined our firm as social media interns and one went on to become a full-time and excellent Social Media and PR Manager in the company.

What amazed me about this bright young woman was that her tastes were not of her own generation, nor even the generation behind, but they were for the 1950s!

As a CMO  I am intrigued about the power of nostalgia and I don’t think we are taping into it strongly enough. (With some notable exceptions like Chevy’s ad campaign for the Super Bowl. Take a look at this ad “Chevy Runs Deep”  .

As a country the U.S. in the Naughties (2000s) is a highly nostalgic place. In some respect we could replace “nostalgia” with the word “longing”. Many have a longing to return to a time when the weather was more stable, when the economy was more stable, when the dollar was strong and we actually exported something.

Any marketer who is involved in engaging people through social media today can do well to remember that from ages 28 through into the mid 60s our population needs comforting and they often get that comfort through nostalgia.

The word nostalgia derives from the Greek “nostos” (return) and “algos” (pain), suggesting suffering due to a desire to return to a place of origin.

The Future Laboratory co-founder Martin Raymond states that; “for many, the recession has been one stress too many. Hence, we are witnessing the rise of Revivalist thinking, a nostalgic yearning for all things past and comforting. Folk themes, folklore, folk fashions and the re-appearance of furniture and products with a quasi-nostalgic theme and a rose-tinted nostalgic viewpoint are all becoming more prominent.”

It’s not only the millions of Baby Boomers rushing into their mid sixties who are nostalgic. A recent study shows that many 28 to 40-year-old Gen Xers strongly reminisce about past times. If your last purchase was Star Trek, a Wispa, shoulder pads or school friend, then don’t fear, you are entirely typical of someone who lived through the Noughties,” says a report from financial services provider Standard Life, which concludes that more than any other decade, the 2000s were very retro.

Damian Barr, who wrote Get It Together (2004) about struggling 20-somethings, fears the generation that reached adulthood in the 1990s and 2000s could find themselves handicapped by excessive nostalgia. “We are less prepared for our difficult present by having had a very easy time of it when we were very young,” he says. “We grew up in a boom – we are living in a bust.” (Stephen Robb BBC News).

Tapping into nostalgia is tricky. You must know the generational cohort you are trying to reach very well. You must listen to their conversations and understand them and your message must be subtle and only hint of nostalgia not slap them in the face with it.

Thanks for reading. Please include a comment about your thoughts on nostalgia. Also, subscribe to the blog for more Social Media and marketing thoughts.

The Sociology of Social Media

John Hope-Johnstone

In my seminars and books on social media I often remark that all social media platforms from facebook to Twitter are basically inert. They are like a telephone with no voice, an old telegraph key with no hand, a TV with no programming… you get the picture.

Participants in my seminars are often very focused on learning how the platform works and how best to tweak it. This is a good thing but most people can find someone to illuminate them on how to set up the platform, but after they learn all the little secrets what then? Basically it just sits there and does nothing, unless YOU give it life.

Understanding how to give social media a voice and how to create buzz, is worth far more of your study time than most people give it. That is why about 70% of people promoting their businesses with social media FAIL to achieve all the results for which they had hoped!

There is no difference to bringing social media alive good Public Relations practitioners have always known. It is capturing the attention of your fans and followers with good content and good ideas that relate to their life and work cycle of today.

Part of this lies in understanding the “sociology” of your readers and in particular what life cycle they are in. Have a look at the photos of your fans and followers. What age bracket do they seem to fall within? I understand there will be outliers but in the majority what age bracket?

When I look at my facebook business page, (yes, it’s the same as a “fan” page), and gaze admiringly at my friends, I realize that by and large (according to their photos) the majority fall into the age decade of 40-50 years of age. (Taking into account Photoshop and those who look amazingly like Grace Kelly).

Next, I want to ascertain is this a boom (in size) decade or a bust (in size) decade. The US Census bureau is a good source of information:

US Population Graphs Click to enlarge

40-50 seems to be a pretty good size and therefore has good potential to grow.

My next question, is to define into which cohort my fans on facebook fall. Each cohort have their own particular wants and needs and are in a particular life and work cycle.

Source: FDU Online Magazine: Click to enlarge

Using the above snap shot, my facebook fans are GenX with a smattering of the tail end baby boomers. (It’s good to note that my Twitter followers tend to be slightly younger with the majority being Gen X, more Gen Y and fewer Boomers, which is the general profile of Twitter users.)

Let’s take a look at the Gen X life cycle:

Click to Enlarge

Sociologists have often remarked that tail end Baby Boomers and the Gen Xers have more in common than the tail end Baby Boomers and the more advanced Baby Boomers.

Both cohorts are trying to make sense of Social Media with the Gen X trying to understand it more for work purposes having already adopted it for play.

The decade previous to the majority of my followers,  30- 40, researchers have noted, is perhaps the highest stress decade. It is the decade in which we awake and realize we are NOT the gazillionaires we had told everyone we would be by 35 (with the exception of Mark Zuckerberg). We often awake to 2.5 children under the age of 5 and a mortgage. We silently think to ourselves (male or female) “I don’t remember this in my dreams.” Does this mean we are, it just means we are surprised.

By the 40-50 decade things have usually settled down a bit. Over 50% of us are onto our next marriage or have sworn off marriage all together. Possibly we have gone through a mid-life crises but had more talent to cope with it than our many earlier multiple crises. We are either climbing up the corporate ladder or have been laid off and starting our own businesses. The latter seems to be a majority of my fans on facebook and definitely the majority of my Twitter followers.

Among Americans who are employed, 16% are self-employed. Close to one in three (30% of employed Americans) work for large corporations, and 28% work for small businesses. The remaining 39% of employed Americans work for medium-sized companies, for the government, in educational institutions, or in the non-profit sector, according to Pew Internet Project.

I think many of my facebook fans and a majority of my Twitter followers fall under the 16% self employed and the 28% who work for a small business.

They are looking for advice on how to work smarter, market better and save money. Now if I can answer some of those questions in an engaging and fun way the perhaps I am doing a good job with my social media time.

My next project will be to check some of the “profile” pages of both my Twitter and facebook followers to check and see if my assumptions are correct and to add any more profile information to my growing picture.

Once complete and checked I will develop an Editorial Calendar to guide my posts (yes I do give this some thought and planning to this rambling). This will also give my facebook comments and Twitter tweets the same aspirations.

The more original content I can produce, the more people will follow me and the more “thought leadership” I will gain.

Ok, that’s it for today. Thanks for reading. Give me a comment and let me know your ideas. More next Sunday.

What Creates Buzz?

Buzz Master

Buzz Master

Bon jour, I hope you had a great week, as some of you know I post to my blog on the weekends so look for a new post each Sunday sometime (or Monday) or follow me on Twitter @HopeJohnstone and I will send you a tweet when I upload the post.

In my last post we spoke more on the “why” of social media and “how” to measure it. Although there are many legit measurements of success or failure in social media such as “friends” “fans” “followers” “views” etc the real bottom line as we wrote last week is Return on Engagement (ROE) and that is what we call “buzz”. Buzz is in some respect “gossip” and gossip is good because people will carry on the conversation to find out if it is real or not. Gossip can be positive although much of what we read in the tabloids is not. So how do we change our tweets or wall posts from being one shot wonders to buzz creators? This is the topic of this post (aren’t you lucky).

Mark Hughes one of my gurus in buzz creation has six things that tend to push peoples buttons and create buzz more than all others, I have taken the liberty (sorry Mark) of breaking out one he included and giving its own number by adding a seventh, here they are:

  1. The taboo (sex, lies, bathroom humor)
  2. The unusual
  3. The outrageous
  4. The hilarious
  5. The remarkable
  6. Secrets revealed
  7. Top 10 lists (my feeble addition)

Now, don’t look at that list and say, my boss would never let me write that! Everything can be (and I have done it) adapted. Remember the more you white wash it the less effective it will become. No one wants you to become a sensationalist but a little naughty can be fun. It’s up to you.

Here are some examples used in Mark’s book Buzz Marketing . In the slightly Taboo catagory do you remember Proctor & Gambles “Don’t Squeeze the Charmin” of course you do, everyone does. Mr Whipple would admonish people in the store to resist squeezing the Charmin. He tapped into our taboo and what did we do when we saw Charmin in the grocery store, right, we squeezed. It was the most successful campaign in P&Cs history.

In the catagory of “Unusual” Ian Klein went into the on-lining dating business in 2000 and was competing against giants such as His sister was one of 64% overweight Americans who were single at the time and so he created Soon the gossip started at Weight Watchers, singles bars, everywhere where people were struggling with their weight. Best of all his idea worked!

I only use these examples from Mark Hughes book because they show you that you don’t have to be over the top to tap into the gossip gene.

So now you have used the above and created some buzz, but what kind of buzz is picked up and run with in legacy media the most? In other words which buzz become stories that have legs?

Here are the five most frequently written stories year after year:

  1. The David and Goliath story
  2. The unusual story
  3. The controversy story
  4. The celebrity story
  5. What’s hot in the media

You want examples? Of course you do…. Well the media is littered with David and Goliath stories, small companies going up against fortune 500 companies, getting bloodied but winning (or at least going the 10 rounds). It’s the Rocky story over and over again. Every loves it, think Delorian going up against Detroit. It didn’t end up well but that wasn’t because of Detroit (or was it?) How about Ben and Jerry’s vs Haagen-Daz, and the stories go on and on. You get the picture.

Another guru of mine is Mari Smith, not just because she hails from Scotland (and so do I) or that she is now Canadian (so was I) but because she is my guru of facebook. I shall end this post with a quote from her “Today, it is not just who you know, but who knows YOU”  Next week we will blog about getting the key influencers to follow you.

Buzz Master