Renaissance Faire

A new book claims that America’s on the verge of a renaissance in culture and business -- and, no surprise, gay people are ahead of the trend.

BY Sean Kennedy

November 05 2008 1:00 AM ET

Patricia Martin smaller| Advocate.com

According to you, RenGen consumers don’t want to be defined or pigeonholed by marketing. Since they have many interests, they don’t want to be reduced to one identity.Essentially, what [companies] are having to do is create much more complex characters -- much more complex brands -- so that a brand can be flowing off impressions and sensorial feel [and] speak to a variety of people. Targeting somebody based on their gender, age, and their education is becoming less and less relevant.

Barack Obama seems like the personification of the RenGen: With his authenticity, multiculti background, and grassroots-oriented decentralized campaign, he could be the poster boy for your book. Did you realize he’d be such an emblem of your message?I gave a talk in California at the Hoffman Institute, and somebody in the audience passed the book to [a staffer] for Obama. I often wonder, Did anybody look at it? Because it seems to me the playbook of the campaign is right out of my book! It’s the most sacrosanct principle of marketing to the RenGen: You have to respect them as human beings. The Obama campaign got that from the beginning.

In RenGen terms, what do you make of CoverGirl’s recent choice of Ellen DeGeneres as the brand’s new face?There are two things operating there. One is how companies are experimenting with a more authentic brand premise. RenGen takes its cues from the natural world, not the manufactured world. As a result, it is willing to accept products that are flawed in some way but are authentic. Dove figured this out with the “real women” campaign. That was so profoundly successful that it opened the door to lots of types of women, and Ellen is benefiting from that. The other reality is just a practical matter for all brands right now: You have to maximize every single dollar. She’s a media magnet -- a powerhouse, like Oprah.

How do you think the RenGen will impact the issue of marriage equality?Gay marriage is now starting to eclipse abortion [as a hot-button issue], and the underlying issue behind these moral issues is that they strip away people’s cultural notions. It’s frightening. People think, Who am I? What gives me a great deal of optimism is that in this particular election moral issues didn’t seem to poison the conversation in the same way they had in the past. With all cultural change, it’s a matter of time. We now have this empowered group of very young voters who just don’t care [about same-sex marriage]. Time is not on the opposition’s side.

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