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Toops Scoops: 5 Lessons to Learn from Occupy Wall Street

Take a look out the window. Chances are if your offices are in a major American city, a group of Occupy Wall Street protestors are converging near the financial district. In Chicago, the protests taking place on LaSalle and Grant Park can range from 30 or so to the hundreds, with protestors ranging in age from high school and college kids to the elderly. 

When the revolt began on September 17, most major media outlets ignored it. The initial take was that it was just a handful of professional protestors looking for a cause. Since then, the movement—although still without a leader or a message beyond protesting economic imbalance—has spread to more than two dozen cities and grown to include more than a dozen trade unions, celebrities and everyday people who aren’t disenfranchised college kids. The movement has so far raised more than $300,000 and is expected to become a serious topic for discussion in the 2012 presidential election.

And although the protestors’ demographic currently may skew toward Millennials, recent polls indicate Occupy Wall Street has the support of many fed-up Americans. A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University shows that two-thirds of New York City voters said they support the protests—81 percent of Democrats and 35 percent of Republicans. And if those results seem high because of New Yorkers’ liberal bent, consider a Time magazine national poll, which indicates the Occupy movement has a 54 percent favorable rating compared with 27 percent for the Tea Party.

Aside from the fact that the protestors may include your friends, family or customers, there are definitely implications for your business involved in the movement:

  1. The affluent demographic is shrinking. High-net-worth customers are a profitable niche for many agents and brokers, but according to the latest U.S. Census figures, there are 5 percent fewer affluent Americans than before the recession—and less mobility by lower income groups into that category.  
  2. You wanna know about Millennials? With the jobless rate for college graduates under age 25 averaging 9.6 over the past year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s little wonder that most of the faces on OWS’s front lines are young (the median age is estimated to be 26). Demographically, Millennials are described as being team players who are highly skilled in social media, engaged with social issues and want to make a positive change in the world--which could describe both an OWS protester and the insurance industry's dream job candidate. Our graying industry’s lust for young blood has spawned dozens of initiatives attempting to discover how to attract and retain Millennials. Maybe  a trip to an OWS protest site would provide some answers. 
  3. If the protestors aren’t your customers, their sympathizers are. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, middle-income jobs have fallen from 52 percent in 1980 to 42 percent in 2010. Only 81.2 percent of men aged 25 to 54 are working, compared with 95 percent in 1969. These ugly statistics mean that at least some of your customers or prospects have been impacted by the current economic malaise—and might be angry enough to get involved with an organized protest.
  4. Doing good can do you good. AA&B has run plenty of articles showing how getting your agency or brokerage involved in charitable works can help build a positive reputation in your community and bring in business. At a time when consumers of all stripes are lashing out against perceived corporate abuses (such as banks levying charges for debit card usage), it’s nice to be able to point to the positives your business provides to the community.
  5. Those who fail to learn from history… The civil rights and anti-war protest movements of the 1960s were initially seen as being coordinated by a disruptive minority, but ultimately their supporters and participants came to include Americans from all walks of life—and they became the catalyst for massive, much-needed change. The OWS protests may not have the same impact as the civil rights or anti-war movements of the 1960s, but then again, they might. Dismissing this grassroots movement, with its unprecedented use of social media to engage supporters, means ignoring history--never a smart thing to do.

 

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