Hearing the Buzz Before It's Buzz
What's the next hot thing? For these market researchers, the future is now.
Companies that hire them: Major marketing and advertising companies, including JWT Worldwide, Euro RSCG Worldwide, and TBWA Chiat Day, tend to have in-house trendspotters and futurists. Such firms as the "scenario consultancy" GBN Global Business Network also use futurists.
How to find out about openings: Check job listings in Adweek and on the websites MarketingCrossing.com and Marketingjobs.com. For jobs in Britain, visit CreativeMatch.co.uk.
How much you can earn: A management position can pay an average yearly salary of $107,610, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; starting salaries are in the $30,000 range.
Useful skills: A background in sociology and statistical analysis helps, as does the ability to identify patterns and pick up on which products and trends on the cusp can make it into the mainstream. Also, you must develop some patience as you wait for your predictions to prove correct.
Number of jobs in the U.S.: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 159,950 marketing manager jobs.
David Beckham has Marian Salzman to thank for his personal branding. When Salzman took the word metrosexual- first coined by journalist Mark Simpson in 1994-from marketing-industry-speak to the mainstream in 2003, Beckham made for a perfect example of the modern, fashion-conscious, well-groomed male who loves his care products.
As the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of J. Walter Thompson, the world's largest advertising company, Salzman has been watching cultural trends for the past 20 years and anticipating how they translate into consumer demands. In 2005, she predicted that the link between obesity and lack of sleep discovered by researchers at Bristol University would lead to an increased number of beds offered by airlines, which certainly seems to be the case with the rise of the all-business-class airline like Silverjet and Eos and with Lufthansa's even considering including beds in coach.
Lately, Salzman sees a shift toward doing good. "We're all getting off on being Bill and Melinda Gates in some small way," she says. "Selflessness is in. And so are smaller communities where we feel like we're really a part of something."
This has translated into companies hopping on the goodwill bandwagon by including donations in their products' sticker prices. Apple, for example, donates $10 to Global Fund for every red-branded iPod sold. So next holiday season, Salzman predicts, Christmas campaigns about decadence will be pass�.
Salzman, the author of 13 books, including the bestselling Buzz and The Future of Men, reads society's cards by watching an extraordinary amount of reality TV. "Right now I'm obsessed with 'fat TV.' There's this whole movement of people obsessed with their bodies." And she's a voracious consumer of news, including from foreign outlets.
But surprisingly, some of Salzman's best training has come from reading supermarket fiction. "I used to read a book a day-an expensive habit in the early years. I learned how to forecast people's emotional and practical reactions to virtually everything," says Salzman. "What's the real plot? Who is seeking what?"
She also hits the streets. "I do hundreds of interviews with people and how they shop," she says. "A lot of time you're hypothesizing, and then you do your research and talk to experts." Her recent research has led her to conclude that Islamic Americans are an overlooked consumer group with $170 billion to spend. And she just returned from Beijing, where she met with China's top stylists regarding her latest cultural find, the urban mermaid: Chinese women who, after decades of dressing like Chairman Mao, are coming into their own and reclaiming their femininity. This, she reports, is an upcoming market, and she is showing her clients how to tap into it.
Salzman wasn't always looking into her crystal ball. After graduating from Brown in 1980 with a degree in sociology, she dropped out of a Ph.D. program at Harvard and waitressed for a while, not knowing what the future would hold. She knew she'd have to get an "adult job," so she started researching the corporate world, leading her to her first book deal at the age of 24, a guide to management training for recent grads.
Salzman's first break came in 1992: While doing market research for Chiat Day in a Connecticut high school, she noticed that some white, suburban males were dressing and acting like urban blacks. Exposing this trend landed Salzman on Oprah and other talk shows. A year later, she found herself caught up in another hot trend-the internet.
As the exclusive market researcher for AOL in the early '90s, Salzman had a front-row seat for the internet boom and founded the first online market research firm, Cyberdialogue, at the age of 30, becoming one of the first to study who was online.
But looking back, Salzman regrets not having invested in tech when AOL first reached 1 million subscribers. "Sometimes I didn't think about my own future," she says.
Organic food goes mainstream: "A mainstream food company with a lot of processed product is deeply screwed."
Grocery shopping: "The time-variable supermarket, with pricing that's based on how much time you want to commit to it. So if you're in a rush, you pay premium."
A Global president? "The rest of the world thinks that they have the right to vote and that there should be an internal and external American president."
Celebrity obsession is here to stay: "The internet and real time are other aspects of celebrity. Most of us never felt privy to details before. People magazine used to be in the lead. Today's there are a dozen of them."
Celebrity obsession will affect the 2008 election: "We're on media-choice overload. I'm not sure how much interest we have anymore. I think the most interesting thing is celebrity voyeurism."
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