Monday, January 11

Looking For Up: Public Optimism

Americans might be less optimistic now than they were six months ago, but an overwhelming majority (94 percent) believe that optimism is the most important attribute in creating new ideas that can have a positive impact on the world. And a majority (66-70 percent) now believe that such ideas will not come from public figures but everyday people "like you and me."

Those were among the findings from a new survey conducted by StrategyOne, a full-service independent research firm, for the Pepsi Optimism Project. The project aims to track the national level of optimism based on a composite score.

Highlights from Pepsi Optimism Project Survey

• 72 percent said that the best is yet to happen despite uncertain times.
• 60 percent believe the best ideas come from family and friends over public figures and managers.
• 70 percent believe that ideas from everyday people will become more meaningful in the next decade.
• Two percent believe that the best ideas will come from authority figures, perhaps the lowest score in history.

The survey strikes at one of several reasons social media has become increasingly important for marketers despite marketers not necessarily becoming more important to the general public. People are looking for answers and ideas, but they are no longer looking to authority figures within their companies or public figures outside their companies.

Of course, this is not to say that social media has caused the shift in sentiment. The general concept that leadership can come from anyone has been around for some time. It's a concept shared by diverse people that have included Steve Jobs, Oscar Wilde, Albert Einstein, Lao Tzu, John Maxwell, Ayn Rand, Donald McGannon, Max Depree, and a host of others.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams

What social media has changed is increasing the potential for good ideas from everyday people to reach more people. It also presents a more challenging environment for companies and organizations to communicate with credibility.

For communicators, it means people are influenced by ideas over authorities. For marketers, it means their message and/or method of delivery needs to change. For public relations, it means less reliance on third party endorsements from "experts."

Pepsi seems to have adopted this mode of thinking as a mantra for marketing. It seems to be the cornerstone of a new campaign to help regular people put ideas into action though the Pepsi Refresh Project. The refresh project awards millions of dollars in the form of grants to help fund ideas submitted by everyday people, businesses, and non-profit organizations. Will it work?

As much as we love the campaign — empowering regular people to submit ideas for grants (with the grants being awarded by public vote) — we're less certain it will raise soda sales or improve soda market share. We're not even convinced that it will help Pepsi meet its long-term objective to reposition its identity as an innovative manufacturer or optimistic soft drink.

Contrary, it seems likely to prove that Pepsi is still overdosing on crowd sourcing. But at least in this case, the experiment might produce something positive even if it doesn't boost the always number two carbonated beverage brand.

It also provides something for marketers and public policy makers to consider. Americans are convinced that the ladder hoisted up by their leaders is leaning against the wrong wall. And, you know, they are probably right.


Rich on 1/11/10, 4:49 PM said...

More words:

If you are interested in the findings of this study, I also highly recommend Barbara French's post today. French sums a post by Mike Gotta, which cites new research led by Wharton marketing professors.

Wharton's research finds similar conclusions, approaching this topic from a completely different angle. The study found that under-the-radar opinion leaders may have more influence than "experts."



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