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The Hard-Working-Class:
An American Evolution of
the Middle-Class Mom

April 2013
A Consumer That Can’t Be Ignored




2 //
The spotlight shone brightly on America’s struggling middle class during the                                                     At C-K, we saw an opportunity to
run-up to the 2012 presidential election. Amidst the conversation and endless debate                                             better understand this segment
around class wars, “the 99%,” “the 47%” and the progress (or lack thereof) of economic                                           – and specifically those at the
recovery, it seemed everyone was focused on the plight of the middle class and how                                               eye of the storm – moms whose
best to solve the problems they face.                                                                                            families earn between $30,000
                                                                                                                                 - $50,000 – an income level that
But there’s a disparity between the political lip-service paid to the struggling middle                                          generally doesn’t qualify for
class and really understanding who they are. This is a group that’s largely misunderstood                                        government assistance. We found
and often ignored by marketers who assume they don’t have the income or influence                                                they are re-defining themselves
to be worth their time or investment. But they are also a large segment that is growing                                          into a new social class and social
rapidly. In fact, half of U.S. households now have incomes of less than $50,000, and this                                        mindset.
segment is growing nearly three times faster than any other segment.1

At C-K, we saw an opportunity to better understand this segment – and specifically
those at the eye of the storm – moms whose families earn between $30,000 - $50,000 –
an income level that generally doesn’t qualify for government assistance. We found they
are re-defining themselves into a new social class and social mindset.

If sheer size alone isn’t enough for marketers to sit up and take notice, their potential
influence on other consumer segments should. More specifically, in many ways we
found these consumers behaving as early adopters - a group of women who are leading
the way at a time when everyone is a value consumer. And while yes, they are price-
sensitive, they have many smart strategies for making ends meet that marketers can
leverage to build relationships in a forever-changed climate.




1
    U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2008-12 Annual Social + Economic Supplements; Futures Company Analysis 2012             A Consumer That Can’t be Ignored 3
An Evolution in Progress

What do polar bears have in common with struggling American moms? Scientists have
confirmed that due to climate change and the melting of the polar ice caps, polar bears
are moving inland and mating with grizzly bears.

This has created a new hybrid called the “Grolar” or “Pizzly Bear” that is able to hunt on
land as well as in the sea—finding a way to survive in a forever-changed environment.

At C-K, we believe we’re seeing a similar adaptive process among struggling
consumers due to the economic climate change, the effects of which we predict linger
long after the economy recovers.




                                                                                             A Consumer That Can’t be Ignored 4
A New ‘Self-Defined’ Social
Class and Social Mindset




5 //
In setting out to gain a better understanding of this increasingly influential
group, we didn’t just uncover an evolving consumer, but an evolving social class. Only
25% of these technically middle-class consumers identified themselves as such:
                                                                                                    Discovery 1
“I don’t see myself as middle class, lower class or blue collar…all I                               These struggling consumers cannot identify
 know is I work hard.”                                                                              their “class” in the traditional classification
                                                                                                    system. They don’t feel any of the current
For them, the middle-class promise is not their reality. Said one woman we spoke with:
                                                                                                    labels accurately reflect their realities.
“I’m technically middle class, but I don’t feel that way. If you’re
                                                                                                    Discovery 2
 middle class, you should be able to have a home, be able to save for
                                                                                                    These women may not qualify for government
 college. I’m barely able to make ends meet. Every day is just a struggle.”
                                                                                                    assistance, but they don’t want it either.
They don’t associate with the 99% either. While aware of the movement, only 2% of
those we surveyed aligned with this label. Perhaps this is because overwhelmingly they              Discovery 3
take responsibility for their financial situation, believing that their life decisions got them     These women have more in common than just
to where they are. If anything, they blame their current circumstances on not furthering            an income bracket.
their education, starting a family too soon or simply bad luck. Said one:

“The 99% movement is all about assigning blame. I know what got
 me here. I take responsibility for my situation.”




                                                                                                  Death of Middle America and a Rising Social Class 6
Key uniting factors are an incredible work ethic and a sense of perseverance. The
women we spoke with aren’t on government assistance, and are proud of it: 79% feel
they are doing everything they can to keep their family above the poverty line. Said one:

“We live paycheck to paycheck—doing the best that we can to make
ends meet without having to ask for help. That’s the way we want
it.” Said another: “We want to provide for ourselves, so we have to
work twice as hard, usually just so we can make ends meet.”




                                                                                            Death of Middle America and a Rising Social Class 7
Meet The Hard-Working-Class




8 //
This diverse and growing group doesn’t picture themselves as part of the
middle class “American Dream.” Instead, 77% of those we surveyed identify them-                       Identify with being in
selves with a new class called the Hard-Working-Class, defined not by what they do, but         25%   the middle class.
how hard they work.

“I am not the working class. I am the Hard-Working-Class.
                                                                                                      Identify themselves with a
 I’m above the poverty line, working over 60 hours a week to keep                               77%   new class called the “Hard-
 my family above water.”                                                                              Working-Class.”
It’s surprisingly difficult to define them by age, ethnicity, region or education level, too.
Hard-Working-Class moms can be found everywhere. They shop where you shop –
                                                                                                      Currently feel that the U.S.
although never without a sale or coupon. They take their kids to museums and family
activities – but certainly know the free days. And they’re next to you on the soccer
                                                                                                15%   economy is improving.
field – although their kid is likely on the payment plan.




                                                                                                        Meet The Hard-Working Class 9
Demographic Snapshot
While there tends to be a higher number of children in the household, there’s no	
one “typical” profession among them. We spoke to nurses, office administrators,
housekeepers, speech specialists, entrepreneurs, waitresses, and stay-at-home
moms—many of whom are college educated.

Ethnicity                                         Education                                         Number of Children

                   82%                                                                                                        45%
                   Caucasian                                                        32%
                                                                                    College Grads



                   8%                                                               42%                                       36%
                                                                                    Some College
                   Hispanic

                   8%                                                               22%
                   African American                                                 High School                               19%
                   1%
                   Asian/Pacific Islanders
                   1%
                   Other

Marital Status                                    Employment                                        Home Ownership

                                                                                    43%                                       65%
                                                                                                                              Own
                                                                                    Full Time
                   73%
                   Married                                                          16%                                       31%
                                                                                                                              Rent
                                                                                    Part Time
                   27%
                   Not Married
                                                                                    32%                                       4%
                                                                                                                              Other
                                                                                    Stay at home

                                                                                    10%
                                                                                    Unemployed
                                                                                                                Meet The Hard-Working Class 10
Forever Changed
Regardless of profession, as a group they’ve been hit hard, going through a lot of
employment flux over the last five years:
                                                                                              35%   Lost their job


	       • 35% Lost their job
	       • 35% Experienced a pay cut
	       • 33% Began working multiple jobs                                                     35%   Experienced a pay cut
	       • 19% Went from full-time to part-time

In light of this, over half of the women we spoke to felt worse off financially than before
the recession. And although many Americans are getting back to a sense of normalcy,                 Began working
only 15% of our Hard-Working-Class respondents currently feel the U.S. economy                33%   multiple jobs
is improving.

Even when it does, these consumers consider themselves forever changed. Of those
we spoke with, 84% said they wouldn’t go back to their old spending habits, even if the
economy were to rebound or their circumstances were to change.                                19%   Went from full-time
                                                                                                    to part-time




                                                                                                     Meet The Hard-Working Class 11
Snapshot of our Hard-Working-Class Moms




Nicole, 34 Home Housekeeper                   Sei Im, 28 Salon Manager                   Bessie, 42 Retail Salesperson

Divorced mother of two. College               Single mother of one. Caretaker for        Single mother of two boys. Part-time
graduate. Nicole lost the support of her      parents. Salon manager. Sei Im is an       retail salesperson who hopes to go back
family and friends after having her first     example of the “Comfort in Cohabita-       to school for radiology one day. Lives in
child at 15. She managed to finish col-       tion” trend of moms who support and        a single-family home with her younger
lege, but hasn’t been able to break out       care for both their children and elderly   sister and helps her take care of her
of maintenance jobs and really leverage       parents. She never went to college, but    daughter while she’s going to college.
her degree due to financial pressures         worked her way up from salon recep-        Has a huge support network that she
after a divorce. She was forced to ma-        tionist to managing five salons in a       relies on and that relies on her.
ture at a young age, and still feels stuck    growing business. She is finally begin-
as a “teen mom” statistic.                    ning to focus on her own life and look     “I’ve never been an ‘I,’ I’ve always been a
                                              to the future.                             ‘we.’” Having less brings you more fam-
“I’ve always felt like a statistic having a                                               ily togetherness. It’s how I remember
 child at 15. It dragged me down a bit.       “I’m adapting to change. All the hard       growing up.”
 It’s just me, I don’t have support. I try     work has been paying off. I just got a
 not to look at the past and just look at      promotion. Now I have to focus on not
 the future. It could have been easier if I    being such a workaholic and try to have
 didn’t have a child so young, but I’m very    more balance between my work and
 proud of my accomplishments. It could         personal life.”
 be better, but it could always be worse.”
                                                                                                                   Meet The Hard-Working Class 12
Five Things To Know
About These Women




13 //
1                                                   2                                                 3
They’re In Transition                                They’re Strong And Durable                        They Strive For Security
These women feel they are in a state of              They’ve been through many obstacles, and          These moms are living on the lower levels
evolution. Our study found 54% feel they’ve          haven’t been broken. Seventy-two percent          of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs right now,
adapted and evolved as a result of the recession.    agree their strength and resilience have helped   worrying constantly about money (63%) and
                                                     them through tough times. One woman we            struggling every day to make ends meet (51%).
                                                     spoke to described herself as a crayon,           Said one:

                                                     “because you can break it, sharpen                “Life is paycheck to paycheck. We
                                                      it, peel away the layers, but the                 are stressed constantly, because
                                                      vibrant color still remains.”                     things are getting more and more
                                                                                                        expensive while my paycheck
                                                                                                        remains the same.”
                                                                                                       Security for this group is hoping that the
                                                                                                       furnace will make it through another winter.
                                                                                                       Or that the gas company will wait another
                                                                                                       month on the payment so that they have
We asked them to create headlines for chapters in
their autobiographies—chapter one being where                                                          funds for school supplies. And it’s putting
they are now, chapter two where they are going.                                                        aside enough money to have pizza for her
This example underscores the state of evolution we                                                     kid’s birthday party next month.
kept hearing about.




                                                                                                            Five Things to Know About These Women 14
4                                                    5



 78%
                                           They’re Living In The Moment                         They Make the Most of What They Have
                                           Relentlessly focused on fulfilling their families’   They keep a positive outlook as best they can.
                                           basic needs, these women take it one day at a        They’re realists who recognize it could always
  More stability                           time. They told us that if they let their minds      be worse – in fact, 87% said there is always
   and control
                                           get too far in the future, the stress can be         someone out there who has it worse than
                                           overwhelming. Said one:                              them. Said one:

                   13%                     “I want to look ahead, but you have                  “It would be nice to live the dream,
               More excitement
                and discovery
                                            to be in the here and now, or things                 but that just isn’t an option.”
                                            get out of control.”
                                                                                                This group doesn’t have the traditional safety
                                 9%
                                 Neither
                                                                                                nets to fall back on. So they rely on friends,
                                                                                                family and credit cards for unexpected wrenches.
                                                                                                And unfortunately, those wrenches happen all
                                                                                                the time.



                                                                                                               Say a $1,000 expense would be a
                                                                                                  83%          major financial hardship.
We asked our moms to pick one wish,
   either more security or more
      excitement in their lives.

                                                                                                               Say they would have no way to
                                                                                                  38%          pay for such an expense.




                                                                                                     Five Things to Know About These Women 15
Life As A Balancing Act




16 //
It takes a lot of juggling and strategizing for the Hard-Working-Class to stay
above water. Especially in the past few years, life has been a constant balancing act of
calculated tradeoffs. We asked these women about how their behaviors have changed
since before the start of the recession – what they’re doing more of and what they’re
doing less of. We heard they’re doing more budgeting, staying at home and being more
creative with resources. But we also heard that they are getting less sleep and even
seeing fewer old friends because they don’t have the money to go out like they once did.   For the Hard-Working-Class
                                                                                           consumer, life is a constant
                                                                                           balancing act of calculated tradeoffs.
                                                                                           More:
                                                                                           Work, Budgets, Coupons, Generics

                                                                                           And More Staying Home:
                                                                                           Cooking, Reading, Family Time, Creativity

                                                                                           Less:
                                                                                           Sleep, Cable, Haircuts, Shopping,
                                                                                           Fresh Food, Traveling

                                                                                           And Less Going Out:
                                                                                           Dining, Girls Night, Movies, Old Friends




                                                                                                                       Life as a Balancing Act 17
The Paycheck journey
Seventy-four percent of Hard-Working-Class consumers say they live paycheck to pay-
check. We sought to better understand what that means.

Based on feedback from our Hard-Working-Class moms, C-K charted the “Paycheck
Journey” for a typical family, month to month. The top line represents the rare good
month when things go as planned and there might even be money left over to go out
for $5 pizza or save for that birthday party.

But for most, a good month is a rarity. Often car trouble, a broken appliance, or an unexpected
medical or school expense takes them down the second track. For Hard-Working-Class
moms, the “unexpected wrench” has come to be expected. In these cases, 90% of those we
surveyed said they stay home and make do with what they have until payday.




Payday!                                    Check Balance                                      Check Balance                             Payday!

               Paycheck splurge on                                Round 2 Bills & Nice-to-Haves               Save? Treat? Or Empty
             Must-Haves & Round 1 Bills
                                                 Unex
                                                 pected Wrench!




                                                                  Borrow or Default on Payments               Slim Week Hibernation




                                                                                                                                      Life as a Balancing Act 18
Part of this paycheck-to-paycheck reality for the Hard-Working-Class is food insecurity.   What they’d do
Some of the women we spoke to told us they are never certain where the next meal will      if the economy rebounded:
come from, and more groceries are at the top of the list of things they would buy if the
economy were to rebound. Said one:

“When I go to the grocery store, I feel so poor. When I go to the
                                                                                              53%        Vacation

government website, they tell me I’m not.”

We asked our Hard-Working-Class moms to tell us where their money goes after payday.
Groceries are one of the last things to get funded, as it’s a variable expense.               53%        Extra Groceries




                                                                                              32%        Dining Out




                                                                                                                Life as a Balancing Act 19
As we got to know some of these women, we were struck by how remarkably resourceful
and resilient they are. Here are some of the ways they surprised us:


Yes-what you might think            But also-what you might not

• Many single and early moms        • No typical age, education or ethnicity
• Lives in underprivileged areas    • Lives in the suburban house next door
• Puts her personal care last       • Can’t pick her out by her looks
• Her kids are her priority         • Her kids aren’t kept from tough realities
• Struggles to make ends meet       • Doesn’t blame anyone for her situation
• Lives paycheck to paycheck        • Lives within her means
• Aware of financial inequalities   • Doesn’t identify with an existing class
• Anxious and feeling the stress    • Strong, proud and determined
• Catching up                       • Leading the way




                                                                                      Life as a Balancing Act 20
Lessons From The Hard-Working-Class:
Doing More With L.E.S.S.




21 //
This resilient, resourceful consumer is highly
adept in the art of making ends meet, earning a master’s
degree in “making it work.” In the next few pages, C-K
distills some of her key survival strategies into lessons in
how to do more with L.E.S.S. (Live, Eat, Spend and Shop).
Marketers, take note.




                                                        Doing More With L.E.S.S. 22
LIVE
                           Community Karma                                                 Splurging on Markers of Normalcy
                           Her community is a survival network. She relies                 In contrast to many higher-income consumers
                           on it for swapping deals, sharing items, childcare              who may swap out brands they prefer in the



       EAT
                           support and feeding her family—and they rely                    name of responsible spending, a different
                           on her. So it’s little surprise that 72% share                  dynamic is at play among the Hard-Working-
                           coupons and deals with family and friends.                      Class. We found a greater resistance to sacrifice



       SPEND
                           It’s just one way women of the Hard-Working-                    their favorite “affordable” tried-and-true brands:
                           Class help each other out.                                      53% said they continue to buy certain brand
                                                                                           names to maintain some sense of normalcy.




       SHOP
                           C-K Food for Thought: How can brands help facilitate and        Said one: “The car may be in the shop, my
                           grow her support system and provide “currency”
                                                                                           bills might be late, but I can still have my Heinz®
                           of value to the network? What’s the next evolution of
                           progressive coupons?                                            Ketchup.” Continuing to buy these brands
                                                                                           reminds them of comfortable times (past or
                           Act of Friendship: Deal Seeking Mom, started by a mom           to come).
                           of five “teaching others how to save big so they can live
                           large,” is one of many community-created online resources       C-K Food for Thought: If you’ve been marketing your
                           relied upon by the Hard-Working-Class. At 100,000+              brand as a “justified indulgence,” are you sure it’s not
                           members strong, the blog is not only a one-stop shop for        a “marker of normalcy?” If you’ve been losing share to
                           deals and freebies, but also a resource for making ends meet.   private-label brands, take a look at where the share loss
                                                                                           is coming from. If the truly struggling are holding on to
                                                                                           you more tightly than the higher-income consumers, you
                                                                                           may be a marker of normalcy.

                                                                                           Act of Friendship: Heinz® Ketchup (a C-K client) has
                                                                                           recently launched an economical stand-up pouch for 99
                                                                                           cents as a way to help loyalists keep using the ketchup
                                                                                           they love in these uncertain times.




2
    MRI Doublebase, 2012                                                                                              Doing More With L.E.S.S. 23
LIVE
        Ingredient v. Recipe Driven                                  Food Stretching
        Unlike higher-income moms who often tell us                  The Hard-Working-Class knows how to make
        boredom fuels their mealtime planning, the                   ends meet through food: 88% said they buy



EAT
        Hard-Working-Class moms are driven by what                   food that “stretches” across meals. Pasta, rice,
        they can afford. Their meal decisions are based              noodles and ground beef are staples, as they
        on the ingredients in the pantry or what’s on                are both filling and versatile. Said one mom: “If



SPEND
        sale: 87% make an effort to plan meals around                I bought a pack of frozen snacks that small, my
        ingredients they already have in the house.                  son would eat them in 10 minutes. I can’t have
        Said one: “I purchase the same food all the time,            that. I buy food that will feed a lot of mouths




SHOP
        unless I have a new recipe, but it’s basically the           and stretch as far as possible.”
        same items with different seasoning.”
                                                                     C-K Food for Thought: If you’re a food brand, is there a
        C-K Food for Thought: What can marketers do to help          new innovation in your product usage that would allow
        her fulfill higher-level emotional needs with the basic      you to stretch? If not, can you partner with “stretchable”
        ingredients she has on hand? How can you help her give       foods so that you can go farther?
        her family variety leveraging the ingredients of her basic
        pantry stock?                                                Act of Friendship: Campbell’s® Soup isn’t just for the
                                                                     bowl anymore—they are encouraging consumers to pour
        Acts of Friendship: Recipe Matcher, Supercook, and           a can of soup over rice or mashed potatoes to create a
        RecipePuppy are just three of the many websites that         hearty meal that stretches.
        allow people to enter the ingredients they already have
        on hand to create a meal. Kraft has gotten in the game,
        too, with their iPhone application that allows people to
        search 70,000 recipes by ingredient.




                                                                                                Doing More With L.E.S.S. 24
LIVE
        Hibernating Mid-Cycle                                     Recycling Their Money
        Just like bears, the Hard-Working-Class                   These families are leveraging every coupon,
        consumer instinctively knows when to wait out             sale and special offer they can to make ends



EAT
        tough weather. When necessary, 91% say                    meet. In fact, 89% said they use coupons
        they stay home and make do with what they                 whenever they can. But beyond stretching their
        have until payday.                                        dollar, there’s an emotional component to the



SPEND
                                                                  “art of the deal” as well – the rewarding feeling
        Said one mom, “When I am able to cook, I try              that you’re getting something back for what
        to do a lot of freezing. That way when my hours           you put in.




SHOP
        are cut and I don’t have money for groceries,
        we still have good food to eat.”                          Said one mom: “I’d never go shopping without
                                                                  a coupon. You need a coupon to feel like you’re
        C-K Food for Thought: How can marketers plan around       getting a deal.”
        the payday “holiday”? How can brands help the
        Hard-Working-Class make do in between?
                                                                  C-K Food for Thought: How can brands elevate couponing
                                                                  to a more emotional experience? Can you help these
        Acts of Friendship: Panera Bread (a C-K client) has
                                                                  consumers play the recycling game? What tools can be
        changed their entire business model to be a friend
                                                                  created to help them benchmark their savings?
        during slim weeks to struggling consumers like the
        Hard-Working-Class moms. Among other initiatives
                                                                  Act of Friendship: Target has moved to an instant
        designed to fight food insecurity, they’ve created five
                                                                  gratification system with their Target Redcard®. Purchasers
        (and counting) Panera Cares® cafes around the country,
                                                                  get an instant 5% discount on all purchases—and tangible
        with the mission to “feed each and every person who
                                                                  evidence of “feeling the deal.”
        walks through our door with dignity regardless of their
        means.” The cafes have a pay-what-you-can policy that
        allows people to choose how much they’re able to pay
        for the food and experience that’s available in any
        Panera Bread location.




                                                                                            Doing More With L.E.S.S. 25
LIVE
        Cart Segmenting                                            Over-Purchase Prevention
        As a brand, it’s not just enough to make it into           Perimeter shopping and selective aisle
        the cart—it’s where in the cart you’re placed.             shopping help these women avoid over-



EAT
        42% place less important items in the back                 purchasing: 60% skip certain aisles to avoid
        of their cart to put them back if they go                  impulse buys.Said one mom: “If it’s not on my
        over budget.                                               list, I won’t go in that aisle. I don’t want to get



SPEND
                                                                   tempted to pick up something I don’t need.”
        “I put the items we can’t do without in the front
         of the cart, and the less important items in              C-K Food for Thought: What can you do as a brand to




SHOP
                                                                   build your presence on the perimeter through cross-
         the back. So when we hit my dollar limit at the
                                                                   promotion, display or even alternative sources of
         checkout, I just hand back what’s left in the cart.”      distribution?

        C-K Food for Thought: Are you front-cart worthy or a       Act of Friendship: Customer-centric grocers are starting
        back-cart indulgence? What strategies can you employ to    to stage more sophisticated meal displays that feature
        become more of a priority?                                 select recipes and corresponding ingredients—in many
                                                                   cases, bringing products out from their aisles and into
        Act of Friendship: “Select supermarkets within China and   the consumer’s perimeter pattern. A “16-week analysis at
        Korea are testing SKTelecom’s Smart Cart service, which    six participating stores (including Harris Teeter® and Save
        syncs tablet-equipped shopping carts with consumers’       Mart) found that the grocers saw an average incremental
        smartphones to offer real-time, relevant geo-target        increase of 19.2% for display items.”
        information. A companion mobile app automatically          (SupermarketNews.com, May 21, 2012).
        synchronizes with the cart’s tablet, upon which it
        displays shopping tips, targeted coupons, and product
        information based on where shoppers are in the store
        and what’s on their list. At the checkout counter, the
        tablet compiles a list of purchased items, membership
        points accumulated, and available coupons.”
        (Source: Cassandra Daily, June 20, 2012).




                                                                                              Doing More With L.E.S.S. 26
Be A Friend: Brands Can
Offer A Meaningful Hand-Up




27 //
A hand up, not a handout.
Hard-Working-Class moms are doing everything they can to keep their families afloat. As            Feel brands could be doing
we learned, part of this is finding ways to continue to buy brands that give them a sense    73%   more to offer a hand-up.
of familiarity and comfort in tough times. In many ways, they’re still supporting us, but
as marketers, what are we doing to support them? There’s a great opportunity to do
more to fully appreciate her situation and identify ways to help—building lifelong loyalty
in the process.

The Hard-Working-Class isn’t looking for a handout. But 73% of them told us they feel
brands could be doing more to offer a hand-up during these tough times.

While price matters, these women are so much more than value-driven consumers.
There are many opportunities to offer a hand-up by connecting beyond the wallet.
Whether that’s through rewarding them, acknowledging and/or elevating them,
helping them build a community of support or further her master’s degree in “making
it work,” there are many potential pathways to befriend this important, influential
and inspiring consumer.




                                                                                                                      Be a Friend 28
Methodology                                                                                 For more information, contact:

At C-K, our philosophy is “Make friends, not ads.®” We look at consumers as friends—        Becky Johns
current or potential. In looking across our clients’ businesses, we realized there was an   Cramer-Krasselt
opportunity to better understand how to build friendships with an often-overlooked          (312) 616-3871
consumer—moms within the struggling “lower middle” class.                                   bjohns@c-k.com

So we spent a lot of time getting to know them through home visits, shop-alongs,
qualitative group discussions, ethnographic research and a quantitative study to better
understand this influential group, their needs and how brands might be able to better
serve them. In particular, we spoke to 18- to 54-year-old women with children under 18
in the household, with household incomes of between $30,000 and $50,000 (an income
level that generally doesn’t qualify for government assistance).

Research was conducted throughout 2012 and supplemented by secondary sources
on socioeconomic trends. Special thanks to Iconoculture for select examples of brands
helping the Hard-Working-Class.




                                                                                                                             Methodology 29

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C-K: Hard-Working-Class Study

  • 1. connecktions The Hard-Working-Class: An American Evolution of the Middle-Class Mom April 2013
  • 2. A Consumer That Can’t Be Ignored 2 //
  • 3. The spotlight shone brightly on America’s struggling middle class during the At C-K, we saw an opportunity to run-up to the 2012 presidential election. Amidst the conversation and endless debate better understand this segment around class wars, “the 99%,” “the 47%” and the progress (or lack thereof) of economic – and specifically those at the recovery, it seemed everyone was focused on the plight of the middle class and how eye of the storm – moms whose best to solve the problems they face. families earn between $30,000 - $50,000 – an income level that But there’s a disparity between the political lip-service paid to the struggling middle generally doesn’t qualify for class and really understanding who they are. This is a group that’s largely misunderstood government assistance. We found and often ignored by marketers who assume they don’t have the income or influence they are re-defining themselves to be worth their time or investment. But they are also a large segment that is growing into a new social class and social rapidly. In fact, half of U.S. households now have incomes of less than $50,000, and this mindset. segment is growing nearly three times faster than any other segment.1 At C-K, we saw an opportunity to better understand this segment – and specifically those at the eye of the storm – moms whose families earn between $30,000 - $50,000 – an income level that generally doesn’t qualify for government assistance. We found they are re-defining themselves into a new social class and social mindset. If sheer size alone isn’t enough for marketers to sit up and take notice, their potential influence on other consumer segments should. More specifically, in many ways we found these consumers behaving as early adopters - a group of women who are leading the way at a time when everyone is a value consumer. And while yes, they are price- sensitive, they have many smart strategies for making ends meet that marketers can leverage to build relationships in a forever-changed climate. 1 U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2008-12 Annual Social + Economic Supplements; Futures Company Analysis 2012 A Consumer That Can’t be Ignored 3
  • 4. An Evolution in Progress What do polar bears have in common with struggling American moms? Scientists have confirmed that due to climate change and the melting of the polar ice caps, polar bears are moving inland and mating with grizzly bears. This has created a new hybrid called the “Grolar” or “Pizzly Bear” that is able to hunt on land as well as in the sea—finding a way to survive in a forever-changed environment. At C-K, we believe we’re seeing a similar adaptive process among struggling consumers due to the economic climate change, the effects of which we predict linger long after the economy recovers. A Consumer That Can’t be Ignored 4
  • 5. A New ‘Self-Defined’ Social Class and Social Mindset 5 //
  • 6. In setting out to gain a better understanding of this increasingly influential group, we didn’t just uncover an evolving consumer, but an evolving social class. Only 25% of these technically middle-class consumers identified themselves as such: Discovery 1 “I don’t see myself as middle class, lower class or blue collar…all I These struggling consumers cannot identify know is I work hard.” their “class” in the traditional classification system. They don’t feel any of the current For them, the middle-class promise is not their reality. Said one woman we spoke with: labels accurately reflect their realities. “I’m technically middle class, but I don’t feel that way. If you’re Discovery 2 middle class, you should be able to have a home, be able to save for These women may not qualify for government college. I’m barely able to make ends meet. Every day is just a struggle.” assistance, but they don’t want it either. They don’t associate with the 99% either. While aware of the movement, only 2% of those we surveyed aligned with this label. Perhaps this is because overwhelmingly they Discovery 3 take responsibility for their financial situation, believing that their life decisions got them These women have more in common than just to where they are. If anything, they blame their current circumstances on not furthering an income bracket. their education, starting a family too soon or simply bad luck. Said one: “The 99% movement is all about assigning blame. I know what got me here. I take responsibility for my situation.” Death of Middle America and a Rising Social Class 6
  • 7. Key uniting factors are an incredible work ethic and a sense of perseverance. The women we spoke with aren’t on government assistance, and are proud of it: 79% feel they are doing everything they can to keep their family above the poverty line. Said one: “We live paycheck to paycheck—doing the best that we can to make ends meet without having to ask for help. That’s the way we want it.” Said another: “We want to provide for ourselves, so we have to work twice as hard, usually just so we can make ends meet.” Death of Middle America and a Rising Social Class 7
  • 9. This diverse and growing group doesn’t picture themselves as part of the middle class “American Dream.” Instead, 77% of those we surveyed identify them- Identify with being in selves with a new class called the Hard-Working-Class, defined not by what they do, but 25% the middle class. how hard they work. “I am not the working class. I am the Hard-Working-Class. Identify themselves with a I’m above the poverty line, working over 60 hours a week to keep 77% new class called the “Hard- my family above water.” Working-Class.” It’s surprisingly difficult to define them by age, ethnicity, region or education level, too. Hard-Working-Class moms can be found everywhere. They shop where you shop – Currently feel that the U.S. although never without a sale or coupon. They take their kids to museums and family activities – but certainly know the free days. And they’re next to you on the soccer 15% economy is improving. field – although their kid is likely on the payment plan. Meet The Hard-Working Class 9
  • 10. Demographic Snapshot While there tends to be a higher number of children in the household, there’s no one “typical” profession among them. We spoke to nurses, office administrators, housekeepers, speech specialists, entrepreneurs, waitresses, and stay-at-home moms—many of whom are college educated. Ethnicity Education Number of Children 82% 45% Caucasian 32% College Grads 8% 42% 36% Some College Hispanic 8% 22% African American High School 19% 1% Asian/Pacific Islanders 1% Other Marital Status Employment Home Ownership 43% 65% Own Full Time 73% Married 16% 31% Rent Part Time 27% Not Married 32% 4% Other Stay at home 10% Unemployed Meet The Hard-Working Class 10
  • 11. Forever Changed Regardless of profession, as a group they’ve been hit hard, going through a lot of employment flux over the last five years: 35% Lost their job • 35% Lost their job • 35% Experienced a pay cut • 33% Began working multiple jobs 35% Experienced a pay cut • 19% Went from full-time to part-time In light of this, over half of the women we spoke to felt worse off financially than before the recession. And although many Americans are getting back to a sense of normalcy, Began working only 15% of our Hard-Working-Class respondents currently feel the U.S. economy 33% multiple jobs is improving. Even when it does, these consumers consider themselves forever changed. Of those we spoke with, 84% said they wouldn’t go back to their old spending habits, even if the economy were to rebound or their circumstances were to change. 19% Went from full-time to part-time Meet The Hard-Working Class 11
  • 12. Snapshot of our Hard-Working-Class Moms Nicole, 34 Home Housekeeper Sei Im, 28 Salon Manager Bessie, 42 Retail Salesperson Divorced mother of two. College Single mother of one. Caretaker for Single mother of two boys. Part-time graduate. Nicole lost the support of her parents. Salon manager. Sei Im is an retail salesperson who hopes to go back family and friends after having her first example of the “Comfort in Cohabita- to school for radiology one day. Lives in child at 15. She managed to finish col- tion” trend of moms who support and a single-family home with her younger lege, but hasn’t been able to break out care for both their children and elderly sister and helps her take care of her of maintenance jobs and really leverage parents. She never went to college, but daughter while she’s going to college. her degree due to financial pressures worked her way up from salon recep- Has a huge support network that she after a divorce. She was forced to ma- tionist to managing five salons in a relies on and that relies on her. ture at a young age, and still feels stuck growing business. She is finally begin- as a “teen mom” statistic. ning to focus on her own life and look “I’ve never been an ‘I,’ I’ve always been a to the future. ‘we.’” Having less brings you more fam- “I’ve always felt like a statistic having a ily togetherness. It’s how I remember child at 15. It dragged me down a bit. “I’m adapting to change. All the hard growing up.” It’s just me, I don’t have support. I try work has been paying off. I just got a not to look at the past and just look at promotion. Now I have to focus on not the future. It could have been easier if I being such a workaholic and try to have didn’t have a child so young, but I’m very more balance between my work and proud of my accomplishments. It could personal life.” be better, but it could always be worse.” Meet The Hard-Working Class 12
  • 13. Five Things To Know About These Women 13 //
  • 14. 1 2 3 They’re In Transition They’re Strong And Durable They Strive For Security These women feel they are in a state of They’ve been through many obstacles, and These moms are living on the lower levels evolution. Our study found 54% feel they’ve haven’t been broken. Seventy-two percent of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs right now, adapted and evolved as a result of the recession. agree their strength and resilience have helped worrying constantly about money (63%) and them through tough times. One woman we struggling every day to make ends meet (51%). spoke to described herself as a crayon, Said one: “because you can break it, sharpen “Life is paycheck to paycheck. We it, peel away the layers, but the are stressed constantly, because vibrant color still remains.” things are getting more and more expensive while my paycheck remains the same.” Security for this group is hoping that the furnace will make it through another winter. Or that the gas company will wait another month on the payment so that they have We asked them to create headlines for chapters in their autobiographies—chapter one being where funds for school supplies. And it’s putting they are now, chapter two where they are going. aside enough money to have pizza for her This example underscores the state of evolution we kid’s birthday party next month. kept hearing about. Five Things to Know About These Women 14
  • 15. 4 5 78% They’re Living In The Moment They Make the Most of What They Have Relentlessly focused on fulfilling their families’ They keep a positive outlook as best they can. basic needs, these women take it one day at a They’re realists who recognize it could always More stability time. They told us that if they let their minds be worse – in fact, 87% said there is always and control get too far in the future, the stress can be someone out there who has it worse than overwhelming. Said one: them. Said one: 13% “I want to look ahead, but you have “It would be nice to live the dream, More excitement and discovery to be in the here and now, or things but that just isn’t an option.” get out of control.” This group doesn’t have the traditional safety 9% Neither nets to fall back on. So they rely on friends, family and credit cards for unexpected wrenches. And unfortunately, those wrenches happen all the time. Say a $1,000 expense would be a 83% major financial hardship. We asked our moms to pick one wish, either more security or more excitement in their lives. Say they would have no way to 38% pay for such an expense. Five Things to Know About These Women 15
  • 16. Life As A Balancing Act 16 //
  • 17. It takes a lot of juggling and strategizing for the Hard-Working-Class to stay above water. Especially in the past few years, life has been a constant balancing act of calculated tradeoffs. We asked these women about how their behaviors have changed since before the start of the recession – what they’re doing more of and what they’re doing less of. We heard they’re doing more budgeting, staying at home and being more creative with resources. But we also heard that they are getting less sleep and even seeing fewer old friends because they don’t have the money to go out like they once did. For the Hard-Working-Class consumer, life is a constant balancing act of calculated tradeoffs. More: Work, Budgets, Coupons, Generics And More Staying Home: Cooking, Reading, Family Time, Creativity Less: Sleep, Cable, Haircuts, Shopping, Fresh Food, Traveling And Less Going Out: Dining, Girls Night, Movies, Old Friends Life as a Balancing Act 17
  • 18. The Paycheck journey Seventy-four percent of Hard-Working-Class consumers say they live paycheck to pay- check. We sought to better understand what that means. Based on feedback from our Hard-Working-Class moms, C-K charted the “Paycheck Journey” for a typical family, month to month. The top line represents the rare good month when things go as planned and there might even be money left over to go out for $5 pizza or save for that birthday party. But for most, a good month is a rarity. Often car trouble, a broken appliance, or an unexpected medical or school expense takes them down the second track. For Hard-Working-Class moms, the “unexpected wrench” has come to be expected. In these cases, 90% of those we surveyed said they stay home and make do with what they have until payday. Payday! Check Balance Check Balance Payday! Paycheck splurge on Round 2 Bills & Nice-to-Haves Save? Treat? Or Empty Must-Haves & Round 1 Bills Unex pected Wrench! Borrow or Default on Payments Slim Week Hibernation Life as a Balancing Act 18
  • 19. Part of this paycheck-to-paycheck reality for the Hard-Working-Class is food insecurity. What they’d do Some of the women we spoke to told us they are never certain where the next meal will if the economy rebounded: come from, and more groceries are at the top of the list of things they would buy if the economy were to rebound. Said one: “When I go to the grocery store, I feel so poor. When I go to the 53% Vacation government website, they tell me I’m not.” We asked our Hard-Working-Class moms to tell us where their money goes after payday. Groceries are one of the last things to get funded, as it’s a variable expense. 53% Extra Groceries 32% Dining Out Life as a Balancing Act 19
  • 20. As we got to know some of these women, we were struck by how remarkably resourceful and resilient they are. Here are some of the ways they surprised us: Yes-what you might think But also-what you might not • Many single and early moms • No typical age, education or ethnicity • Lives in underprivileged areas • Lives in the suburban house next door • Puts her personal care last • Can’t pick her out by her looks • Her kids are her priority • Her kids aren’t kept from tough realities • Struggles to make ends meet • Doesn’t blame anyone for her situation • Lives paycheck to paycheck • Lives within her means • Aware of financial inequalities • Doesn’t identify with an existing class • Anxious and feeling the stress • Strong, proud and determined • Catching up • Leading the way Life as a Balancing Act 20
  • 21. Lessons From The Hard-Working-Class: Doing More With L.E.S.S. 21 //
  • 22. This resilient, resourceful consumer is highly adept in the art of making ends meet, earning a master’s degree in “making it work.” In the next few pages, C-K distills some of her key survival strategies into lessons in how to do more with L.E.S.S. (Live, Eat, Spend and Shop). Marketers, take note. Doing More With L.E.S.S. 22
  • 23. LIVE Community Karma Splurging on Markers of Normalcy Her community is a survival network. She relies In contrast to many higher-income consumers on it for swapping deals, sharing items, childcare who may swap out brands they prefer in the EAT support and feeding her family—and they rely name of responsible spending, a different on her. So it’s little surprise that 72% share dynamic is at play among the Hard-Working- coupons and deals with family and friends. Class. We found a greater resistance to sacrifice SPEND It’s just one way women of the Hard-Working- their favorite “affordable” tried-and-true brands: Class help each other out. 53% said they continue to buy certain brand names to maintain some sense of normalcy. SHOP C-K Food for Thought: How can brands help facilitate and Said one: “The car may be in the shop, my grow her support system and provide “currency” bills might be late, but I can still have my Heinz® of value to the network? What’s the next evolution of progressive coupons? Ketchup.” Continuing to buy these brands reminds them of comfortable times (past or Act of Friendship: Deal Seeking Mom, started by a mom to come). of five “teaching others how to save big so they can live large,” is one of many community-created online resources C-K Food for Thought: If you’ve been marketing your relied upon by the Hard-Working-Class. At 100,000+ brand as a “justified indulgence,” are you sure it’s not members strong, the blog is not only a one-stop shop for a “marker of normalcy?” If you’ve been losing share to deals and freebies, but also a resource for making ends meet. private-label brands, take a look at where the share loss is coming from. If the truly struggling are holding on to you more tightly than the higher-income consumers, you may be a marker of normalcy. Act of Friendship: Heinz® Ketchup (a C-K client) has recently launched an economical stand-up pouch for 99 cents as a way to help loyalists keep using the ketchup they love in these uncertain times. 2 MRI Doublebase, 2012 Doing More With L.E.S.S. 23
  • 24. LIVE Ingredient v. Recipe Driven Food Stretching Unlike higher-income moms who often tell us The Hard-Working-Class knows how to make boredom fuels their mealtime planning, the ends meet through food: 88% said they buy EAT Hard-Working-Class moms are driven by what food that “stretches” across meals. Pasta, rice, they can afford. Their meal decisions are based noodles and ground beef are staples, as they on the ingredients in the pantry or what’s on are both filling and versatile. Said one mom: “If SPEND sale: 87% make an effort to plan meals around I bought a pack of frozen snacks that small, my ingredients they already have in the house. son would eat them in 10 minutes. I can’t have Said one: “I purchase the same food all the time, that. I buy food that will feed a lot of mouths SHOP unless I have a new recipe, but it’s basically the and stretch as far as possible.” same items with different seasoning.” C-K Food for Thought: If you’re a food brand, is there a C-K Food for Thought: What can marketers do to help new innovation in your product usage that would allow her fulfill higher-level emotional needs with the basic you to stretch? If not, can you partner with “stretchable” ingredients she has on hand? How can you help her give foods so that you can go farther? her family variety leveraging the ingredients of her basic pantry stock? Act of Friendship: Campbell’s® Soup isn’t just for the bowl anymore—they are encouraging consumers to pour Acts of Friendship: Recipe Matcher, Supercook, and a can of soup over rice or mashed potatoes to create a RecipePuppy are just three of the many websites that hearty meal that stretches. allow people to enter the ingredients they already have on hand to create a meal. Kraft has gotten in the game, too, with their iPhone application that allows people to search 70,000 recipes by ingredient. Doing More With L.E.S.S. 24
  • 25. LIVE Hibernating Mid-Cycle Recycling Their Money Just like bears, the Hard-Working-Class These families are leveraging every coupon, consumer instinctively knows when to wait out sale and special offer they can to make ends EAT tough weather. When necessary, 91% say meet. In fact, 89% said they use coupons they stay home and make do with what they whenever they can. But beyond stretching their have until payday. dollar, there’s an emotional component to the SPEND “art of the deal” as well – the rewarding feeling Said one mom, “When I am able to cook, I try that you’re getting something back for what to do a lot of freezing. That way when my hours you put in. SHOP are cut and I don’t have money for groceries, we still have good food to eat.” Said one mom: “I’d never go shopping without a coupon. You need a coupon to feel like you’re C-K Food for Thought: How can marketers plan around getting a deal.” the payday “holiday”? How can brands help the Hard-Working-Class make do in between? C-K Food for Thought: How can brands elevate couponing to a more emotional experience? Can you help these Acts of Friendship: Panera Bread (a C-K client) has consumers play the recycling game? What tools can be changed their entire business model to be a friend created to help them benchmark their savings? during slim weeks to struggling consumers like the Hard-Working-Class moms. Among other initiatives Act of Friendship: Target has moved to an instant designed to fight food insecurity, they’ve created five gratification system with their Target Redcard®. Purchasers (and counting) Panera Cares® cafes around the country, get an instant 5% discount on all purchases—and tangible with the mission to “feed each and every person who evidence of “feeling the deal.” walks through our door with dignity regardless of their means.” The cafes have a pay-what-you-can policy that allows people to choose how much they’re able to pay for the food and experience that’s available in any Panera Bread location. Doing More With L.E.S.S. 25
  • 26. LIVE Cart Segmenting Over-Purchase Prevention As a brand, it’s not just enough to make it into Perimeter shopping and selective aisle the cart—it’s where in the cart you’re placed. shopping help these women avoid over- EAT 42% place less important items in the back purchasing: 60% skip certain aisles to avoid of their cart to put them back if they go impulse buys.Said one mom: “If it’s not on my over budget. list, I won’t go in that aisle. I don’t want to get SPEND tempted to pick up something I don’t need.” “I put the items we can’t do without in the front of the cart, and the less important items in C-K Food for Thought: What can you do as a brand to SHOP build your presence on the perimeter through cross- the back. So when we hit my dollar limit at the promotion, display or even alternative sources of checkout, I just hand back what’s left in the cart.” distribution? C-K Food for Thought: Are you front-cart worthy or a Act of Friendship: Customer-centric grocers are starting back-cart indulgence? What strategies can you employ to to stage more sophisticated meal displays that feature become more of a priority? select recipes and corresponding ingredients—in many cases, bringing products out from their aisles and into Act of Friendship: “Select supermarkets within China and the consumer’s perimeter pattern. A “16-week analysis at Korea are testing SKTelecom’s Smart Cart service, which six participating stores (including Harris Teeter® and Save syncs tablet-equipped shopping carts with consumers’ Mart) found that the grocers saw an average incremental smartphones to offer real-time, relevant geo-target increase of 19.2% for display items.” information. A companion mobile app automatically (SupermarketNews.com, May 21, 2012). synchronizes with the cart’s tablet, upon which it displays shopping tips, targeted coupons, and product information based on where shoppers are in the store and what’s on their list. At the checkout counter, the tablet compiles a list of purchased items, membership points accumulated, and available coupons.” (Source: Cassandra Daily, June 20, 2012). Doing More With L.E.S.S. 26
  • 27. Be A Friend: Brands Can Offer A Meaningful Hand-Up 27 //
  • 28. A hand up, not a handout. Hard-Working-Class moms are doing everything they can to keep their families afloat. As Feel brands could be doing we learned, part of this is finding ways to continue to buy brands that give them a sense 73% more to offer a hand-up. of familiarity and comfort in tough times. In many ways, they’re still supporting us, but as marketers, what are we doing to support them? There’s a great opportunity to do more to fully appreciate her situation and identify ways to help—building lifelong loyalty in the process. The Hard-Working-Class isn’t looking for a handout. But 73% of them told us they feel brands could be doing more to offer a hand-up during these tough times. While price matters, these women are so much more than value-driven consumers. There are many opportunities to offer a hand-up by connecting beyond the wallet. Whether that’s through rewarding them, acknowledging and/or elevating them, helping them build a community of support or further her master’s degree in “making it work,” there are many potential pathways to befriend this important, influential and inspiring consumer. Be a Friend 28
  • 29. Methodology For more information, contact: At C-K, our philosophy is “Make friends, not ads.®” We look at consumers as friends— Becky Johns current or potential. In looking across our clients’ businesses, we realized there was an Cramer-Krasselt opportunity to better understand how to build friendships with an often-overlooked (312) 616-3871 consumer—moms within the struggling “lower middle” class. bjohns@c-k.com So we spent a lot of time getting to know them through home visits, shop-alongs, qualitative group discussions, ethnographic research and a quantitative study to better understand this influential group, their needs and how brands might be able to better serve them. In particular, we spoke to 18- to 54-year-old women with children under 18 in the household, with household incomes of between $30,000 and $50,000 (an income level that generally doesn’t qualify for government assistance). Research was conducted throughout 2012 and supplemented by secondary sources on socioeconomic trends. Special thanks to Iconoculture for select examples of brands helping the Hard-Working-Class. Methodology 29