Sailaja N. Joshi

Archive for the ‘American Dream’ Category

Question: Who should I be?

In American Dream, Branding, Presentation of Self on October 27, 2010 at 7:00 am

Answer: A Cavalier.

So, I love(d) LeBron James. I was in Cleveland his first season with the Cavs and the man is he awesome to watch. The man, moves. I like the rest of Cleveland, was pretty upset (understatement) when the man moved to the Heat. But that is all in the past.

This newest ad by Nike titled Rise gives us a glimpse into the icon that LeBron has become, or wants to be. Its hard to say whether this work is the creative genius of LeBron, or the work of their ad agency, but none the same the message is provocative. Not only that, the ad challenges our thinking of LeBron and the status we have given him in our society. Is it really his responsibility to be a role model? Should he really involve an entire state or nation in his career decisions?

The truth is, LeBron is a Cavalier. He went against what the public wanted to better himself. We as Americans should appreciate it, after all we are the country that invented the self-made man. In a society where CEOs continue to pay themselves millions of dollars in bonuses while laying off lower level workers, can you really blame LeBron for making the move?

So, what are your thoughts my readers? Who should LeBron be?


This Blog is Outsourced.

In American Dream, India, NBC, United States on June 28, 2010 at 9:59 am

First I must apologize to my loyal readers (Hi Mom!) for my absence. I suffered a hard drive meltdown (Remember, always back up your files!) and then moved into a new house with my husband. As a result, the past month has been filled with all sorts of turmoil but never fear–I am back.

I often talk about how media and business seem to forget about us Asian-Indian Americans. Asian-Indian Americans are an untapped asset when it comes to goods and are very different from their other ethnic counterparts such as African-Americans. With that said, it looks like the people at NBC have been reading my blog and listened to my advice.

Without further ado, I present to you Outsourced. The newest addition to NBC’s Thursday Night lineup where, “…cultural differences are a novelty.”

Le Sigh.

Now, I’m not really sure how I feel about this comedy. I think its cool that some brown people are finally getting some exposure on prime time television, but at the same rate I find the comedy slightly offensive.

I mean, were there no other stereotypes for NBC to work with? How about an Indian family living in America trying to force their kid into the world of engineering when all they really want to do is be a pop star? Or an Anthropologist?

The point I suppose is that we as Indians are becoming part of the conversation. Once we become part of the conversation, we are now part of the society and that is a very good thing.

So, what are your thoughts? Is Outsourced I step towards the inclusion of Asian-Indian Americans in the media or a big flop?

The Good, The Bad, The Dark

In American Dream, Erwing Goffman, Social Change on May 19, 2010 at 8:07 am

Much of my Master’s research focuses on skin color and its subsequent impact on beauty, social capital and cultural values. Of the studies I’ve read on the subject of skin color (and believe me, I’ve read a lot of studies on this) the conclusion largely remains the same.

Dark skin is bad and light skin is good. (No surprise there!) is the latest agency to feature a story about racial prejudice and how it is still an ingrained part of society, especially among young children.  The pilot study talks to young,  African-American and Caucasian children, who when asked a series of questions about a series of dolls who were identical except for their skin color. Continuously throughout the study children identify dark skin ‘dolls’ as dumb and ugly while light skin dolls are smart and good-looking.

Dr. Spencer, a lead on the study notes that what is alarming about this study is that children, regardless of age, continue to have the same racial stereotypes that civil rights leaders fought against in the 1960s. Generations after the civil rights movement and in an age where we have a black, albeit light skinned, president these children are still internalizing racial stereotypes of yesteryear.

In looking at this study through sociological lens, I turn to my main theoretical crush, Erwing Goffman and his idea of the Presentation of Self, which is worth bringing up again in order to look at this cultural construct that is still apart of a child’s identity.

In looking at the reaction of the children in this study in the lens of Goffman’s Presentation of Self one might consider skin color as the costume we wear. The difference of course here is that, skin color cannot change. Ok, sure you can go tanning or buy lightening creams, but at the end of the day those are just temporary change to one’s skin color.

Skin color, much like a prop such as a diploma, only has significance once a society ascribes it any significance. It is not until we change the conversation, both at home and through the media that the significance of skin color can be shifted. Cultures and societies take time to change their ingrained values, and so while it has be fifty years since the Civil Rights movement has taken place, the ideologies of dark as bad and white is good are still enduring.

As we become more aware of the disturbing ideas our society has surrounding skin color, we are able to discuss these issues and slowly change the significance skin color represents. Within in this study itself, children already demonstrate the ideology that skin color does not matter when it comes to who is smart or who we want to be our friend.

I think the challenge here for the United States is multi-fold. On the one hand, while we are having the conversation about racial stereotypes, we still only look at race as a binary. I mean, for heaven sakes, what is it going to take to get a brown kid into one of these racial studies and ask them what they are thinking and feeling?

Second, it seems as though that, even in this study, we are coaxing our children into thinking that dark is bad and light is right through our questions. I wonder what doll the children in this study would have picked if asked, “Which of these children looks like a good athlete?” or “Which of these children looks like they are good at math?” The conversation then, may have shifted to a place where dark skin was seen as a ‘good’ quality, perhaps even desirable.

We as a society have the opportunity to change so much of this conversation, but that change must start from the individuals and permeate through our media and beauty industry. Until we change this conversation, we are liable to continue to have children who are still living in a world where things are only black and white.

The Moustache Club

In American Dream, Social Change, United States, World Value Survey on May 3, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Recently I was in Washington DC and stumbled on a t-shirt company, Fuzzy Ink that specializes in t-shirts that are moustache themed. Cute shirts, all with moustaches.

This got me thinking; I’ve noticed a lot more mustached hipsters lately and I want to know, just how and when did this start? Who was ‘consumer zero’ who said, hey let’s start growing a moustache! Where is this man responsible for bringing back the ‘nosy neighbor?’

I know a lot of fashion blogs will say that trends start on the runways of Paris or with some high-end fashion designer, but I think that is hogwash.  There are also those blogs that will say trends start on the street with the “Alpha Setter”-a consumer who is the “in” person. Again, I’m not buying that either, because those people are influenced by something.

The key is, what is that something?

So, I’ve done some thinking, and some ideating and come up with the following:

That something that I’m looking for, the something that has started the moustache revolution is, the collapse of the economy.

Don’t believe me? Well take a look.

With the economic collapse, my generation really began to understand what it meant to not have. We came to understand the living beyond our means (read: in debit) was not a way for us to live.  The people at Context Research did a great write about this movement among consumers.

Once we’ve started to realize that living in debt is just not possible, I believe our society went back to being  more survival-based. While we’re not fighting off lions, we are in a way fighting to readjust our bank accounts and restructuring the way we live.  We know from sociology that when you’re working to survive, you’re more inclined to spend more time with your family and accept things that are more traditional.

Enter in Moustache.

I believe that this trend in moustaches speaks to a much larger trend happening in the world today, specifically among my generation. We are making a beeline towards all things traditional. We are paying down debt and no longer needlessly buying big-luxury items. We’re not about labels, we’re about local goods. We are in essence; going back to our traditional roots.

So what happens when the economy makes a upswing and consumers start to spend frivolously again? Well I think my generation is going to remember this time and spend wisely going forward. In addition, I think these values will be passed on to our children, who will grow up realizing the value of the dollar. Companies better start understanding that it’s no longer about just the product, but also the relationship they establish with their consumers.

And so, in closing. Thank you moustache. You may be just a soup strainer to some, but you’re a sociological observation to me.

Beyond Black

In American Dream, Social Change, United States on April 12, 2010 at 12:51 pm

It seems that even in today’s multicultural world, people in America, or rather American businesses still only view the world as black or white. And if you’re white you’re rich and if you’re black, you’re ghetto. Yes, I know that’s a generalization but turn on your T.V for a minute and tell me that’s not how these races are portrayed in the media. After all, is that a young, hip black family in that new Toyota Sienna commercial?

Recently, the consumer insights company Alloy Marketing + Media did a study on the new African American consumer. Through their work, the company uncovered that the typical ghetto persona of the ‘90s is fading among African youths giving way to the Urban Hustler. In the article, director of consumer insights at Alloy, Andre Picard (met him, he’s awesome!), stated that the new Urban Hustler is about drive, work ethic and striving towards upward mobility. In other words, he’s Kanye over 50 Cent. Classy with a bit (ok, in Kanye’s case a lot) of attitude.

While Alloy is on track/point with this new study, the fact is that the African-American consumer is not the only minority out there. Companies have been developing research on African-Americans and Hispanics for years, and sure they know them well enough. But what about those other ethnic minorities out there?

Moving beyond black, there are those of us out there (raise your hands dots not feather Indians) who marketers just don’t understand. There millions of second gen- Asians out there who are looking to some consumer brand to care about them. And the fact is, we’ve got buying power, LOTS of buying power and I bet we’d be ready to give you our dollars if you took some time to understand.

So, what should companies do?

Start researching! As I said before, the 2010 Census  is going to be a big eye opener for companies as they realize the Asian minorities are no longer minorities, but majorities with cash to spend.

Companies like Alloy Media + Marketing are great because they specialize in the young, urban (aka Black/Hispanic) consumer. They are an awesome source of information for consumer goods brands. But they’ve gotta change their game too. They have to move beyond black and start researching the plethora of Asian consumers in the US. Hey, we’re young, proud and hip, someone oughta’ get to know us if they want our loyalty!

So in short. Toyota, switch that family in your Sienna Ad to an Asian one. Just take a quick survey of the Asians sitting around you and I guarantee 4 out of the 5 own SOME kind of Toyota.

And Alloy, up the game and hire me for your Asian Research Consumer Marketing Division (aka Beyond Black).

Reshaping the American Dream (and the New Economy)

In American Dream, United States on April 6, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Ah, yes. I know what you’re all thinking. Here’s another blogger talking about the American Dream in the wake of this new economy. Now before you judge, hear me out because my outlook is optimistically real (now there’s a new phrase for ya’).

I recently stumbled upon a Case Study where the researchers delved into buying patterns of consumers as a result of the recession. The company, Context Research, did a fabulous job of doing what I call REAL marketing research as they truly spent time with the individuals learning about their behaviors.

The results of the study were, interesting to say the least, as they demonstrate the emergence of the new American Dream, a dream of less stuff. Up until now, America had been about STUFF. What stuff do you have? What latest stuff thing. Stuff stuff stuff. We became a nation that, well it didn’t matter how much we made but rather how much we had/have/are going to get.

With a philosophy like that, its not surprising we’re in our current situation. We rack up debt like our lives depend on it. And sometimes, they do. So, after the realization that we cannot continue to live beyond our means, what happens?

Do we just stop buying stuff?

Are consumers’ smarter?

You Betcha! (Can’t believe Sarah Palin got a nod in this post!)

Consumers are spending a lot more time carefully planning their purchases and as a result, companies need to be smart. Very Smart. And very real. Because consumers now want a company that cares, and by caring we don’t mean just donating one dollar for every bottle of XYZ sold.  Companies can no longer sweep scandals under the rug or claim to be green when they are truly not.

The truth is companies need to reshape their values based on the new American dream and this means learning what it means to be a new American. We no longer just want stuff, we want stuff that has value and meaning and is made to last. We’re no longer just white upper-class folks. We come in many colors and we have many values that differ from yours.

So to all my faithful business people out there, forget about product innovation and start developing consumer insights. Spend time learning who we are, what we do and what we want. Learn about our human behaviors and then, start your product creation. Because I have a feeling, once you know, and REALLY get to know us, you’ll have us as consumers for life.

And what company wouldn’t want that?