Some people who do trends are really out there, Salzman says, absentmindedly twirling her hair as she rocks in a chair in a Porter Novelli conference room. I would not say Im one of those people. Im only talking about things that help you sell products and services to people today. Im talking about values and other things.
But when Salzman talks, others are increasingly listening.
She correctly predicted the meltdown of real estate values long before 2008, the gradual shift of the nations heartbeat from New York and the East Coast to Chicago and the Midwest, and the forced return to neighborhood awareness and values because of seismic economic shifts.
You just try to keep up, Fahey says. Shes wonderful at tying it all together -- not just looking five years out but making sense of the last 10 years. And its the breadth of topics that she can make sense of -- technology, environment, business, entertainment -- thats amazing.
Sometimes, Salzman admits, that requires brutal honesty for a country ill-prepared to handle it.
One of my things Ive been saying since maybe 97 is that Americans are like golden retrievers in a world of rottweilers, she says. We really are not prepared for the world in which were forced to live. We have all the right verbiage, all the right glibness, but we dont necessarily know what were living with, dealing with, coping with.
So Salzman does her probing, and it can get ugly.
Most recently, she predicted that cuspers, whove been labeled as generation Jones by other trend spotters, are becoming players of growing influence on the landscape. This demographics members, born between 1955 and 1964, are projected to be catalysts of a return to a more egalitarian, broad-minded, and community-engaged way of thinking than the old-guard boomers.
Headliners such as President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs, she says, represent a stark contrast to the greedy boomers, whom she described in a CNN.com column as taking the rap for the reversal of fortune thats shaking the world.
Within moments of the columns posting just before Christmas 2008, Salzman faced a vitriolic backlash from hundreds of readers stung by the characterization. Moderating the discussion on her PNIntelligentDialogue.com blog, she was stunned.
I [had] never before felt personally assaulted like [that], she says, remembering. It was horrible.
But Salzman wont be backing down anytime soon. Leaning back in her chair, a black leather jacket on her lap, she focuses her blue eyes across the table.
Is it the end of the boomer -- the Gordon Gekko imagery of the boomer? Absolutely, she says.
Hers is an unflinching approach born through her upbringing in River Edge, New Jersey. The daughter of a businessman who oversaw a family print shop and of a mother who was a bureaucrat with the Social Security Administration, Salzman recalls being an unremarkable youngster with remarkable aspirations.
I was not overly smart, she says. But I was always more adventurous than other people. I didnt really like TV; I read a book every single day when I was a little kid, on my own.
In eighth grade, Salzman made a life-changing decision: She persuaded her parents to allow her to move to a working-class town in England for several weeks as part of a student-exchange program. The experience began a lifelong love of exploration that fueled not only her blossoming wanderlust but also her learning of how societies, and the people in them, function.
I was completely fearless, she remembers. What finally unleashed me? Maybe it was time in the world.
In ensuing years, after completing her Ivy League education, she tackled the world aggressively -- first, as director of consumer insights and emerging media at ChiatDay and then, in 1992, as cofounder of Cyberdialogue, the worlds first online market-research company. Salzman is credited for being a pioneer in creating online focus groups.
Later, as chief marketing officer at JWT Worldwide, she crossed the globe incessantly. The removal of a brain tumor 22 months ago spurred Salzman to make a change, and she moved to Porter Novelli in order to stay closer to home.
But that repaired, adventurous, fearless brain hasnt stopped whirring.
What makes Marian different from most is that unique combination of energy, enthusiasm, curiosity, and intellect, Fahey says. I tell people to pay attention to how prescient she can be.
Its almost, well, mystic.