Archive for March, 2013

Why do today’s parents spend twice as much time with their kids than their parents spent with them?

Recently, the Pew Research Center released an excellent analysis of how mothers and fathers spend their time. It shows that “the way mothers and fathers spend their time has changed dramatically in the past half century.” The data track back to 1965, providing a look into time use which spans nearly 50 years. Mothers are working significantly more hours than in 1965 while spending less time with housework and more time with child care. Fathers have increased the amount of time they spend doing housework and child care. This release is a fascinating view of how parenting has changed.

We decided to take a little different look at this data to see what it could tell us about parenting across the generations. The table below shows the number of hours per week spent by mothers and fathers in child care since 1965.

hours

As you can see, the total number of hours parents put into childcare increased considerably starting in the late 1990’s. It jumped up to be close to double what it had been, and has stayed there ever since. So, what is the explanation for this? Why did parents start to spend almost twice as much time taking care of their children in the late 1990’s?

There are likely many possible explanations, but we tend to think there are generational factors at work. Below, we show the dominant child generation during each of the data collection points above.

child generation

Here, we can see that in the late 1990’s, we were near a Millennial peak. Indeed, according to Howe & Strauss the Millennial generation birth years are 1982 -2004, so from the late 90’s into the early 00’s the entire under 18 population was made up of Millennials.

We know that Millennials have been “heavily parented” – but the question that remains is why didn’t we see the increased child care time earlier in the Pew analysis?By 1995 Millennials were the dominant child generation, yet increased child care time did not manifest itself until the 2000 data.

The answer (from a generational sense) lies with the parents. For most generations, about halfway through their birth years the predominant parental generation changes. For example, most Millennials born in the 80’s and early 90’s were mostly born to Boomer parents. Since that time, the predominant parental generation has shifted – the back half of the Millennial “boomlet” was birthed to mostly Xer parents.

The increase in child care time seems to have come almost precisely when Boomers stopped having children and Xers started having children. That seems to be the answer: parents started spending almost twice as much time taking care of their children as soon as Boomer stopped being parents and Xers started.

It stands to reason that Boomers and Xers are very different as parents. Boomers have been characterized as having a permissive and risk averse childhood, having come of age at a time of great social upheaval, and to have become a bit self-absorbed as parents. They are perfectionists with their children, whom they see as a reflection of their own desire for self-actualization. By contrast, Xers were the first  “latch-key” generation, and learned quickly to be resolute self-starters, independent, tough, and hands-on managers in all they do. This including raising their children, whom they clearly have chosen to spend considerable time with.

Interested in learning more about the generations? We’d recommend this book by Howe & Strauss, as a start!

A Great Way to Give Back

donorschoose_org_logo

At Crux Research, we are proud of the pro bono work we do for non-profit organizations as well as our charitable donations. That said, we try not call great attention to them. The true nature of giving back is that its motivation comes from the heart. There is an excellent passage in the Book of Matthew (part of the Sermon on the Mount) that we strive to live by:

 “Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven … when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

At the risk being hypocritical and violating that spirit, we’d like to call attention to something we recently facilitated. Around the holidays each year, we were in a habit of sending holiday cards and a small gift (a coffee mug) to our clients and friends. This is perhaps as exciting as receiving a tie on Father’s Day. So, last year, we decided to work with DonorsChoose.org. Donors Choose allows teachers (often from areas of high poverty) to post classroom project requests. Donors can browse these requests and give to the ones that inspire them.

For the holidays this year, we sent gift cards for Donors Choose instead of our usual coffee mugs.

Our clients redeemed them to support many projects – almost 100 projects in total. Some projects our clients helped support included:

  • Helping school in southern California buy 14 guitars for an after-school music program intended to keep kids out of gangs.
  • Enabling a Nebraska classroom  to obtain Chromebooks to help students collect scientific experiment data.
  • Supporting a high poverty school in Washington State that requested pencils and art supplies for day-to-day learning.
  • Providing support for a Tennessee classroom that requested anti-bullying curriculum.
  • Helping a NYC-area school purchase a xylophone to use during class and concerts.
  • Helping a New Orleans classroom buy a printer to print out work and copy activities.

Bravo to our clients for doing their part. If you have never been to DonorsChoose.org we’d recommend you pay a visit. It doesn’t take long to get inspired to give to a needy classroom!

Don’t sequester your marketing budget!

We’ve all been there and seen it. An organization is facing a tough stretch. Maybe the business cycle isn’t in its favor. Maybe a competitor has emerged. Maybe there is a new CEO on board who wants to assert his/her direction on the company and show results quickly.

What is the easiest way to improve profits for the next quarter?  Just cut any investments that aren’t expected to pay off in the short term.  Many times this is research and development, but it is often marketing budgets that first feel the pressure in bad times. Particularly market research. Research projects take time and money, acting on their insights take time and planning, and the payoff from the projects is typically down the road.

There are some great anecdotal stories of companies that, during a rough stretch, invested heavily in marketing and came to dominate an industry.  During WWII, because of wartime rationing, Wrigley’s could not obtain enough raw materials to produce gum. Their production came to a virtual standstill but their marketing lived on. First, they shipped the product they could make to the troops overseas,and made sure domestic customers knew they were doing this. A Wrigley’s ad in this era showed an empty wrapper with the tagline:  Remember this Wrapper.

WrigleysWrapper

When the war ended, Wrigley’s quickly reintroduced their brands, and went on to dominate their categories for decades. It is a brilliant example on how marketing intelligently in a difficult time, and keeping a long term perspective, can pay off.

More recently, before the stock market downturn that occurred just before and after 9/11/2001, there were dozens of PC manufacturers vying for share. Dell had begun to emerge as one of the most successful ones. Dell realized they were in a better position to weather the downturn and saw an opportunity.  They kept their prices low, invested heavily in marketing. Remember this guy?

delldude

During this time, Dell withstood the financial pressures to cut marketing investment. Post recession, while companies were going out of the PC business, or deep-pocketed large firms (IBM) were giving up on it, Dell was positioned as a major player.  Within a couple of years, Dell was the world’s largest PC vendor.  Much led up to this position, but increasing marketing investment in a difficult time had the effect of shaking up the market and leaving fewer players intact at the end. Interestingly, Dell’s current plan to become a private company is being done in large part to escape the short-term pressures so they can make better longer term decisions. They are struggling because being a public company prevents them from long-term thinking.

The Wrigley’s and Dell examples show that keeping the long-term in mind in the midst of short-term pressures can pay off.  But the spending has to be smart.  In many organizations, the long-term takes a back seat.  CEOs are under quarterly pressure from investors. Brand managers are in their jobs for just a few years before moving on, so they are looking for marketing seeds that will sprout quickly. Often it is the slow growing ones that yield the greatest results.