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Work In Progress - Blurring and Polarization

Everywhere you look in key areas of life, you'll see old boundaries becoming blurred:

  • Who's buying the moisturizer, and who's driving the pickup? Gender roles and behavior have blurred. Women are going further in education and their careers, and are doing more traditionally male things, while men are getting more "touchy-feely" and entering more traditionally female territory.
  • Where's the office? Work time and personal time have blurred. With the rise of the information economy, the Internet and mobile telephony, people take their work home and also attend to personal business at work (paying household bills, messaging or e-mailing family and friends, etc.).
  • Is that guy the older brother, the father or the grandfather? Generations are blurring. Children are getting older at a younger age, but at the same time, young adults are studying longer and living with their parents well into adulthood, and they are marrying and having children later. Older generations are having first or second families into their 40s and beyond.
  • I'm here, where are you? Notions of location are blurring, thanks to communication technology, globalization and immigration, which are all helping to make distance less relevant. The customer service rep you're talking to may be speaking from another town or another continent. Wherever a Web site is hosted, it always looks "local" on your screen. And with mobile phones, you may not know whether the other party is in the same building or a foreign country.
The blur factor is becoming increasingly prevalent in society, but in keeping with that ancient Chinese principle of yin-yang, so too is an opposite trend toward polarization.

Sometimes polarization stems from people feeling uneasy when too many boundaries are shifting or blurring; they lose their sense of what's what and where's where, and they feel the need to take a firm stand. Sometimes polarization is driven by factors beyond the control or even the awareness of individuals: politics, globalization, rapid technological development and so on. Whatever the reason behind it, polarization is clearly affecting the way people think and behave which makes it important for marketers to factor into their thinking.

This issue of Work In Progress examines the dynamics of blurring and polarization, and looks at a few specific areas where these yin-yang factors are at work.

Download the full report (pdf)

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Marian Salzman
Executive Vice President,
Chief Marketing Officer

JWT Worldwide