Marian Salzman coined the term metrosexual, introduced the world to “cuspers,” and claims that the day of the boomers has ended.Oh, and she can also predict the future.
Photograph by Heather Johnson
There is no crystal ball in Marian Salzman’s spacious office in SoHo, New York. There are no tarot cards in her desk drawer, no tea leaves swirling in a cup, and no chicken bones scattered on the floor.
The woman once called “Mystic Marian” by a London tabloid doesn’t read palms, divine auras, or offer psychic readings.
To be sure, Salzman hasn’t relied on the supernatural to become one of the world’s top forecasters of trends in business and culture. Instead, the chief marketing officer for public-relations giant Porter Novelli taps into something far less mysterious: life.
She’s lived it, and more abundantly than most.
“I am an information seeker,” Salzman, 50, says. “I would rather read 20 newspapers than speak to 20 people. I am one of you, one of us, and you can’t take that out of somebody.”
It’s that everywoman attitude -- and an uncanny knack for plugging in to societal shifts -- that has propelled the self-described former teenage mall rat from suburban New Jersey to a position of undeniable influence.
While the narrow definition of Salzman’s job is to help clients position their brands to best service customers in a tumultuous economic climate, her reach has extended far beyond the work on her desk.
“I think what she has done, her strength, has been to make sense of the chaos,” says headline trend spotter Ann Mack, a Salzman protégé who works for JWT Worldwide in New York.
In a time of staggering uncertainty, that skill carries particular relevance.
Indeed, Salzman, a Brown University graduate and a Harvard University–trained expert on sociology, business, and emerging media, is a brain-tumor survivor and philanthropist who has built an ascendant career out of sensing the dramatic winds of change from the earliest gentle breezes.
Using a combination of the analytic and the intuitive, Salzman pores over statistical analyses and media reports even as she follows the tug of gut instinct.
“What’s interesting about what she does is it’s half art and half science,” says Bob Jeffrey, CEO of JWT and Salzman’s former boss. “It’s not something where you can go out and get a degree for it.”
Loquacious and personable, Salzman is an attractive blonde with attractive smarts and has become a staple on CNN and other news programs in recent years. While she quails at being thought of as some sort of Xena of zeitgeist, a sexy sociologist probing at our inner workings, the Connecticut resident has undoubtedly placed a finger on the country’s collective pulse.
Through television appearances, blogs and printed columns, aggressive globe-hopping, and books she’s authored, such as Next Now: Trends for the Future and The Future of Men: The Rise of the Ubersexual and What He Means for Marketing Today, Salzman has helped introduce the term metrosexual into mainstream conversation; has identified the narcissistic, socially motivated tendencies of young millennials; and has raised awareness -- and some hackles -- by pragmatically breaking down the cultural, intellectual, and political climate of current and future eras.
“She takes reams of information and then simplifies it down to a point of view,” says Alison Fahey, publisher and editorial director of New York–based Adweek, which often runs columns from Salzman. “She’s got some pretty kinetic energy and a restless mind. People say that I talk fast, but Marian makes me look like I’m in a coma.”