I recently finished reading “The Way We’ll Be: The Transformation of the American Dream”, by John Zogby of Zogby International. In the book, Zogby uses the polling data he has collected over the past decade to analyze the ways in which American culture, values, and perspectives have changed. Zogby’s company is dedicating to conducting extremely extensive polls – Zogby International gathers information about an array of topics from citizens across the United States, including their values, opinions, and priorities. It’s a fantastic read for anyone trying to bring products or services to market, or really anyone looking to the future.
The book was hard to put down. I loved learning about all the different qualities of the generations Zogby categorizes; their behavior, how they spend their money, their acceptance to change, etc. As inventors, we market to the future. It’s important to understand the desires and motives of what Zogby deems “the first globals”. In “The Way We’ll Be”, he’s giving us the virtual crystal ball to the future.
The ways in which the American Dream has changed are the focus of the book. Zogby provided some clues to the causes behind these changes.
“More Americans identify the American Dream in spiritual terms like achieving a more meaningful and fulfilling life. They outnumber those who use the traditional material definitions of the American Dream. I think there are three principal sources of this. One is the now 27% of American adults who are working at a job that pays less than a previous job. They have been forced to downsize their lifestyle, spending and expectations. Next are those who have achieved material success, but feel the need to move on to something more important in their lives that defines who they are. The third are those Baby Boomers, including some a little older and some a little younger, who will be the first age cohort to have 1 million who are 100 years of age. With pending retirement, what do they do for the next 25 to 35 years?” Zogby asks.
The transformation of the American Dream has had sincere repercussions, evident in the fact that “Americans are consciously spending less, spending wisely and trading down, and then occasionally trading up,” according to Zogby.
What effect does this have on marketers?
“There needs to be the realization that more and more consumers want what’s real and what works. They want the steak and don’t want to be fooled by the sizzle.”
Zogby’s polls are often politically minded. I was curious to see if he thought that the “first globals” would vote for change in November.
“I predict that they will vote and vote in record numbers. They sense that there is a lot at stake because they both travel and are networked across the world and they fear for America’s image abroad. They also see the America of tomorrow – it’s a new demographic in this campaign and there is a sense of excitement that hasn’t been there in many years.”