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Malala’s very first interview after the shooting was with the BBC’s Mishal Husain. Here’s what she told Mishal last October:

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Changing consumer behavior is being attributed, in large part to new consumer values. The emerging narrative is, quite literally, taking over the conversation between consumers and corporations trying to catch their attention. We are all familiar with the themes. Green, sustainable, community, connection, consciousness, globalism and so on. Sounds like we can all congratulate ourselves on being a more enlightened people but I’m having a hard time swallowing it.

What are these new values and what relationship do they really have with how we spend our money and develop brand loyalty? I think that values are self defined, self endowed virtues that we use to positively interpret our own behavior. Badges, as it were, invented by our aspirations and pinned, by our ego’s, onto our identities where they shine for all the world to see. The gap between the energy we are prepared to invest in defending our values and the effort we make actually employing them is so broad as to make it clear that values are both deeply important to us yet entirely optional from a practical standpoint. They are permissive and don’t carry the performance requirements of, say, principles which must always be applied to hold true. On a list of needs to wants, values would fall into the “nice to have” section.

By way of illustration, as if a good hard look at all of our own personal lives wasn’t enough, consider how enraptured we are with stories of self sacrifice and lofty deeds. This is because they are the heroic tales of values actually winning out over self interest and that is rare indeed. Values allow us to positively interpret our self interested behavior so it is no surprise that they have come to dominate the narrative between business and the consumer. What is surprising however is that more people don’t recognize that this narrative is somewhat of a “tea party conversation” that skirts the real, if less flattering, motivations behind our choices. That does not make the narrative any less useful as it pertains to branding, marketing and communications in general, but it does mean that it is only part of the picture. It makes sense for corporations to fill in the blanks if they want to address the real concerns and motivations of their customers.
So what are consumers experiencing right now? How do they feel and what are their new values an expression of? What do they need or want to hear from business to address the actuality of their lives in these highly volatile and transitional times? There are no definitive answers to these questions but they are the questions that companies need to be asking themselves if they want to engage in the values narrative with consumers in a way that also connects with their stronger, more basic motivations.

I think the values that are emerging are all, ultimately, based on a nation wide sense of uncertainty. To put it bluntly; Fear. Fear of what exactly? Grossly simplified; fear of scarcity and fear of threat. Scarcity (or the recognition of it, despite being the first law of economics, has only very recently shown up in the American consumer psyche. For the first time we are realizing that our consumption habits are unsustainable and do not support our long term, or even sort term, well being. Realization did not come in the form of enlightenment but in the growing cost of, food, fuel, housing and so on. The impact of climate change, water and air pollution and the growing prevalence of things like asthma, autism, allergies and so on in our kids has strengthened our grasp on the concept of scarcity. Our rational response is to conserve and ration. The value system that validates that behavior is environmentalism and sustainability. The values are very real but they are not our primary motivator. We are, on a much more primitive level, afraid of running out of the things that we rely on.

The second set of values are based are a response to perceived threat. A convergence of events has made us feel exposed and vulnerable. We have come under attack and lost our sense of security within our boarders. We have had to relinquish the moral high ground and seen our economic superiority threatened by the rise of India and China. Our economy went from very strong to very weak in an extraordinarily short period of time to the very real economic detriment of millions of Americans. Our, once again, completely rational response is to develop somewhat of a wartime mentality. To gather together and form communities. To be more tolerant and less arrogant towards our neighbors whose strength is growing relative to our own. The primary motivator is fear and the value system that it represents is all about relationships, engagement, diplomacy, tolerance, community, connectedness and globalization. Probably the best expression of this shift is the election of Barack Obama to be President. We put aside old prejudices and a value system structured around superiority and replaced it with one that fits better with conditions over which we have no control and no choice but to adapt.

So in conclusion, I would suggest that changing consumer values are the symptom and not the cause of changing economic, social and environmental conditions. Corporations seeking to connect with consumers today should absolutely engage in the values narrative but should do so with the understanding that it is the result of what amounts to fear and insecurity. How do you talk to a consumer who is fearful and insecure? You have the conversation with them about values that they want to have because it makes them feel comfortable and virtuous. You also acknowledge, explicitly or implicitly, the actuality of their experience and the challenges that they are facing. Without that, the narrative around values remains vaguely insubstantial and somehow fails to get to the heart of the matter.

Written by Sara Batterby
Brand and Messaging Strategist
http://www.akelventures.com

http://www.engvid.com Let’s talk business! Today you’ll learn vocabulary that will help you to read and speak about the economy. We will look at common words used to discuss economic matters, such as GDP, stagnation, fiscal, and more. These words and expressions will help you read financial news articles and follow economic reports on television and online. After the lesson, take the quiz and try to practice these words by discussing economic matters in English with your co-workers and friends. Feel free to ask me questions in the comments section on engVid. http://www.engvid.com/english-vocabulary-how-to-talk-about-the-economy/

TRANSCRIPT

Hi. Welcome back to www.engvid.com. I’m Adam. Today’s lesson, we’re going to look at business English. We’re going to talk about the economy. Now, we’re not going to get into too much detail. We’re not going to get into economic theories, etc. What we’re going to look at is some vocabulary that will help you read financial articles and newspapers, or online, or watch financial broadcasts on TV; CNN, Money Matters, etc., things like that. So, we’re going to look at all these words.

We’re going to start with “GDP” because everything somehow relates to “GDP – gross domestic product”. What is this? This is the total value, the total monetary value of goods and services produced within a country. So everything that the country produces from toilet paper to airplanes, and services from massage to heart surgery, all the money that’s made from these goods and services together adds up to the GDP. So, when we’re talking about GDP, we’re going to refer back to this expression when we’re talking about some of these other words.

So, first, let’s look at “fiscal”. “Fiscal” basically means anything to do with money, anything to do with financial matters, especially when we’re talking about taxes. Okay? So, when… The most common thing you’ll hear is “fiscal year”. So when we’re talking about a company’s fiscal year, we’re talking about it’s the beginning of its tax year to the end of its tax year. In some countries, everybody matches this to January to December; in other countries, you’re allowed… Your fiscal year starts when you start your business, and then one year later is the end of your fiscal year. It’s easier to match it to the calendar year, but…

A “quarter”. Now, you’re going to always hear about prices, and stocks, and values going up or down over the last quarter or over the last two quarters. What is a “quarter”? It’s basically three months. So if you’re talking about the first quarter of the year, you’re talking about January, February, March. That’s your first quarter. Your next three months, second quarter. Four quarters makes one year.

“Currency”. I think everybody knows this word, but just in case, this is the money that is used in a country or a region. This is the monetary value that is used for exchanges, trades, investments, etc. In Canada, we use the Canadian dollar. In the U.S., they use the American dollar. Euro in Europe, etc.

A “budget”. A “budget” or “to budget”, it can be a noun or a verb, means to make a plan on how to spend a certain amount of money. So, for example, a government has this much money that they need to spend, or they have a plan that they want to spend this much money. Now, they want to spend a million dollars. I’m being very simple, here; I’m not going to get into big numbers. They need to spend a million dollars to provide all the services that they need and to buy all the materials that they need to import, etc. If they are running on a deficit, that means that they need to spend more money than they have. They have to spend on things to bring in or to run the country, but they don’t have. So if I need to spend a million dollars but I only make the revenues of the country are only 0,000, then they will run on 0,000 deficit. Okay?

“Surplus” is the opposite. “Surplus” is when the government or any company, you don’t have to apply this to a government, when you have more money than you need for the budget. So if I need to spend a million dollars over the next year, but I have a million and a half, then I have half a million dollar surplus, which is always a good thing.

“Inflation/deflation”. “Inflation” is when prices of goods and services go up, but wages stay the same. So, basically, the purchase power of the individual goes down. You have the same amount of money, but you can buy fewer things or you can hire fewer people to do to have services for you. “Deflation” is the opposite. That’s when prices go down, and the value of your dollar or your currency goes up. Both situations are not good.
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Talking with your Kids about Current Events? 

Why not?  There are so many news articles on line, in newspapers and on TV that are truly worthy of noting.  The trick if you’re going to talk with your kids about them is to avoid our adult urge to “comment” and/or share our own opinions.  Talk about a turn off!  Most kids are pretty darned sure about OUR opinions–and they don’t need a lecture from us. 

The purpose of talking to kids about current events is to get THEIR opinions and thoughts.  For example, just recently there was a news story about Levi Johnson (you know Bristol Palin’s former boyfriend?).  He was being interviewed and was asked: “Do you have any regrets?”.  He replied that he didn’t regret “being a father”.  No matter what your political beliefs, this is a great lead-in to a discussion. 

In this example, no matter what your opinions and ideas on the subject, this in-the-news broadcast issue can provide a glimpse into your child’s notions and beliefs about many aspects of this story. This could be a good opening to talk about “premarital sex”, “teen relationships”, “behavioral choices”,  “risky behavior”, “long-term plans”, and a whole bunch more. 

If you wanted to start a conversation with your child about any of these issues, how would you begin?  Sit down and say, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about ____”  or “Now’s a good time for us to talk about ___” Or “What do you think about ____?”  Any of these openings delivered out-of-the-blue is likely to illicit an unspoken thought: “Oh, boy, here we go…here comes the lecture!” 

The mistake that many parents might make in bringing up a life-lesson subject into a discussion is that we adults often want to lead the discussion.  After all, we’ve got the maturity and life-long experience to impart.  When we tout our own opinions before finding out what our children think, we often shut the door to an open and genuine conversation.  Kids often perceive the spontaneous personal “conversation” as a one-way lecture and give us a glazed stare–have you noticed?

Instead, using another outside-the-family specific person or event (like one “in the news”), provides a sense of being an observer to the issue.  By seeing the issue from a slight distance parents and kids can talk about them and their issues–them or what they or how that worked for them–it’s not quite so personal or open to personal criticism or embarrassment.

Here are some tips to connecting with your child and finding out what he/she thinks:

 Be vigilant!  Be on the look-out in the newspaper, on-line and in televised news for stories that can open a discussion.  It might be about sex, drugs or music–it might be about personal safety–it might be about school behaviors or education.  The news is full of ideas–EVERYDAY!
Ask if your child heard the story (on the news, in the paper or on-line) about _____.  If not, explain what happens in the story.  If so, ask, “What do you think about it?”
Be prepared to ask open-ended questions so that you won’t get a “uh” or a “yes” or a “no”.  Try questions like “What do you think he was thinking?” or “What do you imagine he thought was going to happen?” or “How do you suppose he got in that predicament?”. 
Avoid asking leading or personal questions like: “You wouldn’t do that, would you?” or (even worse) “You wouldn’t be so foolish as to think that, would you?” or “How can I be sure you aren’t going to get into that type of trouble?”. 
Ask your questions and give your child plenty of time to respond. 
Avoid judging his/her response, notions or beliefs.  Notice your own tendency or desire to preach or teach and DON’T.  Keep asking open-ended questions so your child can keep sharing and talking.  This is your opportunity to find out what your child needs to know or understand–not your time to act on it.
If the “discussion” goes awry, apologize for YOUR part in the conversation.  Explain that you just wanted to talk TOGETHER about what YOU had seen “in the news”.  But, don’t defend your position about the subject–it’ll lead to an argument if your child disagrees.  Or it might even shut your child down and close a future window of opportunity for discussion.
Be gentle on yourself.  Talking WITH kids is tough!  It takes practice and intention to automatically use “open-ended” questions.  It takes a true desire to find out what your kids think and belief and resist the immediate desire to correct their thinking. 

Parenting requires patience, skill, knowledge–and experience.  Your children are out-there exposed to all sorts of ideas and behaviors.  Our job is to assist them to do what we did–learn from what we observe and experience.  Talking with your kids about issues “out-there” makes it easier to open a conversation about a subject, learn from it and change or confirm beliefs and ideas.  Luckily there is a lot of hot-topics in the news everyday we can use to start the dialogue. 

For more information about relating to kids and learning how to join with them, you’re invited to visit http://www.EncourageBetterBehaviors.com After all, when the goin’ gets rough, it’s wise to go ‘n’ get more information.