However, the authors say that the terrorist attacks played a role in hastening that social change process. Applebee's America, which was available in advance of its official September 2006 launch, hits store shelves before the fifth anniversary of 9/11.
Dowd, Sosnik, and Fournier found that key to winning the heart and mind, and vote, of the bulk of voters/consumers across the United States was to appeal to those who dine at Applebee's International restaurants. The restaurant chain is described as having met the core need of today's consumers by building community.
The authors explain how and why long-time Democrats voted for President George W Bush in 2004 due to the 'gut instinct,' and how the growing popularity of mega churches fulfill the sense of life's purpose for the successful, suburban, middle-class across the United States.
Fournier, Sosnik, and Dowd write that Generation 9/11 --who are between 19 and 29 years of age in 2006-- are generally more civic-minded, politically active, and optimistic about the future of the United States. The authors admit holding great promise for the future leaders as they desire religious values, women leaders, use of technology, and social mobility in their value system.
Dowd is a founding partner of consulting firm ViaNovo, and was chief strategist for Bush-Cheney 2004. He recently spoke on the Republican National Committee (RNC) radio about Applebee's America. Dowd said that those who came of age around the time of 11 September 2001 were, as a result of the attacks that day, evolving more alike those of the World War II generation -- in so much as they were interested in being involved as a community, however different due to technology. Materialism has not been as important for the group as it had been for their parents.
Additionally, Dowd said in advance of the book's launch that the 9/11 influenced generation use technology to build community or they wear a wrist band, or buy a product that meets their personal values and thus the trends signal to business and community leaders what is important to these followers and consumers.
Leadership: Applebee's America addresses what works.
Using some examples to propel the book's premise, Applebee’s America analyzes how former President Bill Clinton won his second-term despite having made no progress on health care reform; and how President George W Bush won his second-term even though most voters felt the nation was headed in the wrong direction on education, health care, jobs, Social Security, and most other policies.
Additionally the book, which is named for the success of Applebee's International, discussed how lack of restaurant business experience made no difference to Lloyd Hill's leadership and ability to take his brand to the next level across some 2,000 suburbs in the United States. Before the book's launch however, Applebee's International replaced CEO Hill with Dave Goebel effective 5 September 2006. Hill will remain a non-executive board member. Applebee's International reported that Hill's leadership it grew into the largest casual dining concept in the world.
What the authors say will make a future leader is the ability to connect with an ever-changing public value system --based upon the public's desire to connect with others and achieve a higher purpose in life-- in an empathatic and optimistic way through communication.
Strength and decisiveness were key ingredients in determining leadership appeal too. Presidents Bush and Clinton, and mega church-leader Rick Warren, and Applebee's Hill have what the authors coin as Gut Values Connections (adapting to a change, building a strategy of communication to target audiences, and predicting habits based upon consumer/voter lifestyle choices.)
Applebee's America also examines the marketing strategies, which reflect success in having said "what is right" to the "right people" and in "the right way."
Dowd, Sosnik, and Fournier suggest massive social changes are impacting how leaders are viewed and that society is forcing political, business, and religious leaders to adapt to those changes or fall from favor. Such changes have been reflected in women emerging as major players in the workforce and how that shift impacted family life; additional factors include immigration, global economics, technology advancements, and threats of terrorism.
Authors say that the purpose of life has changed in the United States and consumers desire strong family values, more religious interrelation, and consumers desire community connections with the products they buy.
But the career picture has changed too with professionals being forced to change jobs more often, and what was once considered stable health care has increasingly become more expensive and less flexible, both issues of which worry voters of the middle class.
Build community on the Internet
People continue to lose faith in politicians, corporate executives, religious leaders, and the media. In this age of technology, skepticism and media diversification, consumers are turning to people Applebee's America coins as Navigators -- those leaders who confirm a community's value system for which individuals may seek advice on political issues, morals or religion, and consumer products.
Dowd told RNC radio that information overload has given rise to Navigators (he estimates that 10 to 15 percent of the population qualifies for this description) who give direction on movies, restaurants, and products. "They could be a teacher in bible study or a little league coach," he said. Navigators give their followers a sense of direction, a feeling of safety, and have become empowered much like those leaders some 100 years ago -- called precinct captains. Dowd said that the Internet at first seemed as an isolating tool, but it now has emerged as a community gathering place.
In other words, Dowd said what television took away from people --a switch from community interaction pre-WWII to self-viewing alone at home post-1950-- has begun to come back full circle with Internet technologies in the 2000s.
"What technology took away from us, people became isolated and now we are all the way back to a time before the technology... Politicians and businesses that don't use the Internet are going to fail," Dowd said. New technologies, hand-helds, chat, boards, etc, breed niche communities in which word-of-mouth communication is more effective and credible to the follower than media-heavy methods observed during the baby boom generation.
Learning how to use the Internet and communication is key, Dowd said, for true leaders emerge after having understood why lifestyle is so important to his followers and why "gut" feelings are linked to winning the hearts of followers.
An advanced copy of the book was given to a cross-section of leaders. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) said that Applebee's America provided fresh thinking and new ideas for those interested in learning how best to influence large groups of people.
Gut Values Connection
The decision making process comes from the heart for most people in the United States, authors conclude. Leaders who touch the heart of followers meet the Gut Values Connection requirement.
Opinion leaders can connect with Navigators to better understand the gut connection within his community.
New leaders ignore the past trends and focus instead upon what followers feel today. Some examples of new trends include: People turn to peers for information, not the media; majority of mega church goers are Democrats, not Republicans; the United States' voters are highly mobile, don't expect them to be in the same city were they voted in the previous election; key to predicting how a voter will vote is based upon his/her lifestyle choice, not views on gays, abortion, or taxes.
Publishing house Simon & Schuster says of Applebee's America the authors do not conclude whether or not these changes are good or bad for the United States only that change is inevitable. "It is no time to ignore the lessons of success from Presidents Bush and Clinton, and Hill and Warren -- four imperfect men who nonetheless understood the value of community, connections, and purpose in this new social order," the authors conclude.
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