[In]Sight:Mind Over Matter

[In]Sight: Mind Over Matter-Graeme HuttonDo you think you are successful? Ambitious? In this era, when our economic ecosystem stares in the face of fabulous failure, our own personal successes and ambitions can become much more powerfully luminous to each of us. My own lens on ambition was profoundly refocused about 15 years ago when I visited India and took the opportunity to meet a spiritual philosopher - a budding Deepak Chopra, if you will.

After conversing with him for less than two minutes, he asked if I worked in planning or research. Then he paused and added, "You have ambitions. Not in the way society views ambition to achieve money and power ... but you have ambitions to fulfill your talents, whatever they may be." In truth, I had never thought of ambition in this way. But after this, I never looked back. Well, hardly ever.

It's interesting to determine how others view success, ambition and happiness. To broadly describe success and ambition, Simmons offers about 20 questions on the subject. Universal McCann's marketing and communications survey, Media in Mind, which is linked to Simmons, expands this by 25 questions. What can these 45 questions tell us?

In its classic sense, ambition is a young, primarily male characteristic. Men younger than 35, especially those under 25, are twice as likely as the general adult population to agree with statements like, "I like to have possessions others envy." They also agree with "People are impressed with ... the technology devices I use" and "... owning a luxury car." Women under 35 follow similarly, except retail therapy takes on a new dimension since they agree they "like shopping at prestigious stores," while women 25-34 index highest on "I like having expensive jewelry or watches."

If President Barack Obama targets you as a $250,000+ "high earner," owning a luxury car often appears to be a key status symbol. It indexes at 286 among this group versus the general adult population. No other success metric comes close for this income group.

Scanning across all other major demographics such as marrieds or parents, we see few dramatic spikes or dips until we come to graduate school graduates. Two characteristics distinguish this cohort: "I look at work as a career, not just a job," (index 158 versus all adults) and "I feel secure financially," (index 147). And, yes, they do view themselves with pride, with 39 percent more people than average agreeing that they view themselves as role models to others.

Yet ambition and happiness do not appear to be the same personal mindset. Just as being ambitious has an inherently younger male slant, being happy has an opposite older female age bias. What attitudes help make people happy? For instance, would you agree with any of the following three statements: "I am happy with who I am," "I am satisfied with my life" and "I am happy with my standard of living."

It's likely that you agree with at least one of these statements, as does 90 percent of the u.s. population. If you're lucky, you'll be in the 25 percent that agree with all three.

We interrogated our Media in Mind database, and could summarize what distinguishes being happy in four attitudinal statements: If at first you do not succeed, keep trying; I am good at what I do; it's important to feel respected by my peers; and I am able to balance what's important in life.

What is striking about this list is the paradoxical balance between having a strong internal gyroscope focusing on what we actually do and what we need to do, and the desire to balance that focus with other aspects of our lives and gain positive feedback from people we value.

So what are the implications?
First, assiduously target your product plan to your audience. Avarice is clearly a trump card in marketing to young adults. If you're in technology, for example, make your device conspicuously cool.

Next, actively treat your prospects with respect. We consistently see Americans culturally relate success and happiness to both self-respect and mutual esteem.

Last, encourage relevant mutual feedback and interaction. Do this via user communities to help consumers feel happy about their brand choice.

As Benjamin Franklin wittily noted: "The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself."

1 comment about "[In]Sight:Mind Over Matter".
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  1. Mark Mclaren from Ipsos OTX MediaCT, March 3, 2009 at 2:56 p.m.

    Graeme, very nice work, and great use of factor analysis! Understanding the basic drivers of consumer motivation is so important in our business, and seeing psychographic data used so intelligently in this process is encouraging.

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