Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Reducing guilt a bit at a time can be brand strategy. Here I first explore the origins and dynamics of guilt and then move to explore ways to apply this insight as a cultural positioning approach.
Feelings of guilt are internalized ways of reacting to one’s actions or inactions. Developmental psychologists (for example Justin Aronfreed) have found that parents who raise their children by references to feelings about their children’s behavior or “induction” are more likely to have children who internalize guilt. On the other hand, parents who raise children by asserting their power or “sensitization” are more likely to have kids who are concerned about avoiding external punishment.
The difference between kids who internalize guilt and those who are more concerned with external consequences is important. In the first case these children develop what is commonly referred to as conscience regarding their behavior, while in the second case the kids are more oriented to whether they are going to be discovered or caught.
“Inductive” parents talk to their children about how they feel when the kids misbehave. They use expressions like “you hurt me when you do that.” “Sensitizing” or externally oriented parents are more likely to use physical force to guide behavior.
While these two types of parents exist in all cultures some are more prevalent in some cultures than in others. Jewish mothers are well known for inducing guilt in their kids and use expressions like “you make me suffer with your actions.” Interestingly many Latin American cultures share that as a common orientation. It may be because the mother in these cultures is so extremely revered that she has a very strong influence. Hispanic kids are extremely careful not to offend or disappoint their mothers. Latino mothers are also likely to talk to their children about how they feel about their behaviors.
Again, it is not that one culture is completely one way or another but that there are tendencies that are more prevalent in one or the other. Let’s look at guilt learning and experience among Hispanics.
Anyone who has viewed a “Telenovela” or a Latin American “Soap Opera,” can clearly identify the suffering that mothers experience and the way they induce guilt in their children. The suffering mother is a constant theme. “Telenovelas” are important tools of cultural learning for Latinos. They remind viewers of their own experience but also reinforce guilt oriented behaviors.
Anthropologists (for example Ruth Benedict) have also classified cultures as guilt or shame oriented. Guilt oriented cultures tend to share more of the Judeo-Christian orientation towards internalizing a sense of feeling bad for transgressing while Eastern cultures tend to be more oriented towards a sense of shame for not conforming to the group.
When marketing to Latinos in the US, it is important to keep these cultural tendencies in mind. For example:
Mothers coming to the US from Latin America are likely to feel that they do not do enough for their families and experience guilt. Clearly there are products and services that can be positioned as guilt reducing elements in the lives of these consumers.
Insurance: Reduce guilt by protecting the family as much as one can.
Preventive health care: Reducing guilt by doing more to avoid illness.
Consumer products: Reducing guilt by giving kids what parents could not afford before.
Technology: Reducing guilt by re-establishing contact with loved ones.
This is one example of how cultural insights when properly understood can help communicate legitimate products and services in ways that are culturally compatible. Cultural insights need to be studied by looking at cultural trends in the literature, and also need to be explored via qualitative research.
Qualitative research, when well done can uncover deep rooted common trends that can help a brand distinguish itself from a cultural point of view. Qualitative research is frequently misunderstood as pro forma interviewing and that is not it. In-depth qualitative research can dig up important trends that marketers and service providers can use to the benefit of consumers and of their services and brands.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
David Deutsch in his notable book "The Beginning of Infinity" talks about how science progresses. He argues that scientific progress has been mostly achieved through conjecture and criticism. These are the two tasks I am engaging in here in talking about the digital future of a multicultural society.
Many organizations have been concerned lately with the implications of the increased and prolonged use of multiple screens by young and also older people. The Kaiser family foundation, Ipsos, The Pew Research Center, and others have conducted studies in which they have found that the access to smartphones in particular has increased dramatically. Also, that infants use tablets and smartphones even when watching television. Many report fatigue and other strain related issues. And as we know some run into walls and have accidents when driving, biking, etc. while texting or doing some other activity on their mobile devices.
Many eschew direct social contact to favor technology. A New Yorker cartoon recently showed two teenage girls talking while looking at their smartphones and one stated that it should be a special boy that is the one that she first looks directly in the eyes. Families sitting at tables in restaurants are many times found busily looking at their smartphones as opposed to engaging in interpersonal face to face interactions. Many look at their different social media accounts while watching television or doing almost anything else.
What has the world come to?!
The world has experienced many important revolutions, evolutions, and discontinuities. The digital era has brought about a challenging environment that in some ways divides old from young, and those technologically connected and those that are not yet.
Clearly, some of the negative implications, which are more easily drawn, include:
- Social dysfunction and lack of interpersonal skills
- Isolation and daunting individualism
- Obesity and ill health due to lack of physical activity
- Life span decreasing and quality of life deteriorating
- Illiteracy because of lack of reading and writing in grammatically accepted ways
- Increased selective exposure to materials that agree with one’s points of view, thus polarizing society further
- Formal education becoming less important and attractive to young people
These are just some of the potential ills that our new society may witness evolving over the next years. But, like most things in life, there may be different effects as well. As Jon Stewart found when he used to consult with his “senior speculators” many perspectives and alternative futures may materialize.
What if what we are witnessing now in terms of technology impact is just a transitional phase leading us to a more interesting and challenging future? What if alternative realities materialize?
Think for example, that looking at screens is just a temporary phase in the evolution of technology. We know that soon there will be technology increasingly present in our eyeglasses, earpieces, clothing, accessories, and perhaps even implanted in our brains. The emergence of virtual reality and other technological evolutions will change our behavior and probably enhance our skills as well.
Also, who will be best prepared to take on the evolutionary turns that technology will bring? As we have seen in multiple pieces of research including my own, Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians have outpaced non-Hispanic Whites in their use of new technologies. Does that mean they will be better prepared for the future? Will social classes flip so that the “have-nots” of today become the “haves” of tomorrow. Will the agents of change be the minorities of today?
What consequences may current and future technologies bring?
- Brain transformations that allow for increased multitasking and multiple brain operations at once thus making us more versatile in our dealings with people and objects
- Increased and constant social interaction by dramatically increasing and diversifying our social networks to extents never possible before
- Increased physical activity as technology will allow for exercise while being virtually connected literally “on the run”
- Integration of virtual and physical networks to extents never imagined so that people with common interests can navigate between virtual and physical worlds fluidly
- “Electronic propinquity” or virtual personal nearness will allow for intimacy with distant people who are dear to us and allow for relationships that go beyond what we have known as a relationship
- Education will become more challenging and interesting as lectures and formal settings become a thing of the past and experiential learning becomes more prevalent
- Images and sounds will become the new literacy as our brains become more capable of comprehending the world in more complicated symbolic forms
- Linear literacy will be replaced with immersion literacy, in which one experiences symbols
- By being connected with distant multiple and diverse others our ability to empathize and understand differences will increase
- Life spans will continue to increase as exercise and healthy habits are reinforced by new technologies
Alternative worlds can be envisioned and contemplated. Multiculturalism may become more of a reality and also a benefit as humans interconnect at more levels. Members of current minorities may have an edge because of their earlier immersion in the “tech” code of doing things.
The moral of the story is: Alternative futures may surprise you!