It's safe to say we've all heard a lot of mentions of the "American Dream" in the past 18 months of presidential campaigning. But what does the American Dream really mean to Americans today? A new report from JWT, The American Dream in the Balance, has some insights into how the American Dream is changing—and how marketers can tap into those changing attitudes to appeal to customers’ emotions.
First, let me reassure you that the American Dream isn’t dead—seven out of 10 Americans still believe in the concept—but it is changing. Nearly two-thirds of Americans think the American Dream is moving away from its traditional roots in community and family. Today, they say, the “dream” is more likely to be about making money, buying things and gaining personal recognition.
Obstacles to the DreamReaching that dream isn’t easy, however. Nearly 70 percent of respondents say it has become more difficult for middle-class people to live the American dream in the past five to 10 years. A lack of job opportunities, rising costs of living and increasing personal debt are seen as the top obstacles. Asked to get more specific, respondents cited the mortgage crisis, banking institutions in general and Wall Street as impediments to reaching the dream.
While younger Americans are less likely to believe in the traditional American Dream, they’re more optimistic overall than older Americans, and more satisfied with how their lives are going. In fact, their satisfaction has actually increased since 2008.
How can your small business’s branding and marketing benefit from the transformed American Dream?
Acknowledge the hard times. Recognizing your customers are having to do more with less–especially if they are middle class—shows that you care and are paying attention. Position your brand as helping consumers cope by saving them money or providing better value.
Promote an optimistic marketing message. Americans still feel positive—nearly two-thirds believe America is a place where anyone can achieve fame and fortune, and the majority of us still think the U.S. is the land of opportunity—so negativity won’t fly.
Create community. We’re hungry for community. Though part of the traditional American dream, many in the survey believe we lack community today, and lament its loss. Can you create a sense of community in or around your business?
Do your part. Speaking of community, are you contributing to relevant causes, getting involved in your town’s organizations or otherwise helping to make the world a better place? Then let customers know about it.
Play up your American credentials. Are your products made in the U.S.A.? Do you employ workers from the local community? To resonate with consumers today, you need to show that your business is part of the solution, and not part of the problem.
How has your small business' marketing strategy changed since the Great Recession?