• Debbie Goldfarb

California Dreaming: A marketer’s guide to succeed in the Golden State

“You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.” — Hotel California, Eagles



When I was 15, I was obsessed with the idea of California. Who doesn’t? My interest was, of course, heightened by the popular ditties constantly playing on the airwaves — Hotel California from the Eagles, California Girls from the Beach Boys, California Dreamin' from the Mamas and the Papas, etc. As well as from watching the popular TV shows shot on pretty California locations — Charlie’s Angels, CHiPs, the Streets of San Francisco, and much later Baywatch while experiencing the cold and dreary winters of St. Louis, Missouri. Bottom line: I was California dreaming.

California has been home to me for over two decades now but… boy has it changed a lot since I moved. Over the last century, waves of migrants, from filmmakers to oil men, from farmers to “dot com” entrepreneurs, have journeyed to the state in hopes of attaining their own piece of the California dream.

With all the changes that has taken place plus the frequent fires and the recent coronavirus outbreak, is the California Dream still alive? Here’s what we found out about the Golden State.


California Dreaming

California, it has been written, is America, “only more so.” How much more so? From immigration laws to school spending, some of our biggest decisions depend on an accurate count of this giant state’s population — of who we are, of whether we’re coming or going and of what we need from each other and our government.

In 1850 only 92,597 people lived in California, but by mid-19th century, due to the gold rush, CA population grew by 300% to 379,994. After WWII — CA’s population in 1950 was 10.5 million…. following decades of exponential growth CA leads the nation as the most populous state in the US with close to 40 million people.

Fueled by economic prosperity, good weather and glorious land of opportunity and dreams — 1 out of every 8 US citizens lives in California. No wonder why so many songs have been written about the Golden State over the years.


California Leaving

However, all is not so golden in the golden state…along with the US overall — in the last decade CA lost over 1.3 million people. And, with escalating home prices, devastating impact of COVID on hospitality industry and unpredictable fire weather — this loss has been especially poignant between 2019 and 2021 with a loss of 500,000 people alone.

Although as a state we are getting richer and have a surplus of funds for economic growth — the working class is fleeing the high cost of living. And, with more than 10 million immigrants and one of the largest ethnically diverse states in the US — California’s growth is being negatively impacted by declining birth rate, aging population, and 1.3 million people migrating to other states like Texas, Florida, Washington, and Oregon.

Not surprisingly — all major cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego & San Jose) have seen 5%-7% losses in population. But unexpectedly…even the smaller cities of Malibu, Santa Ana, Norwalk & Inglewood have experienced losses up to 15%. And we would be remiss if we didn’t highlight major stars like Chris Hemsworth, Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Kanye West leaving as well.


California Streaming

But all is not lost… most Southern California cities grew, with Irvine leading the pack. While most counties across the United States saw their populations shrink over the past decade, recent U.S. Census data shows every county in Southern California grew from 2010 to 2020 — thanks largely to increases among communities of color.

What’s more, smaller cities of Riverside, San Bernardino, Sacramento, and Davis have grown at a 10.4% growth rate which is close to 4% greater than CA’s overall growth rate of 6.5%. Other counties of note include Orange County, Santa Ana, and Santa Clara.

So, what’s the big deal? Political clout, representation at the federal level and resource allocation of $1.5 trillion in annual federal funding. The more populous the larger voice in Congress in terms of seats (currently 53) and fund distribution. The stronger the economy the greater likelihood of attracting and keeping 675 company headquarters in the state (although down 35% from high of 1,031).

While 53% of all US Counties shrunk — Southern California in particular stands to receive a larger share of the federal pie of available dollars for infrastructure builds, transportation growth and innovative technology expansion. We expect major growth in Irvine, Riverside and San Bernardino as they are one of the few areas with available land and inventory of space. Of course, favorable tax incentives and preferential treatment by local governments helps as well.


California Succeeding

So now what…. along with the rest of the US — California is poised for economy growth and a “euphoric” rebound in the industries hardest hit by Covid from hospitality to tourism to manufacturing growth. Of course, at this point with Covid cases rising, vaccinations waning and supply chain disruptions this may in question…but being the golden state does have its advantages….

  • CA unemployment has dropped from high of 9.4% to 6.2% in 2nd Quarter 2021.

  • CA received largest allocation of CARES ACT funds for K-12 of $26.4B and $5B for higher education.

  • 8.2% GDP increase is on-target to be achieved by 4th quarter 2021.

  • CA tax revenue is projected to be $71B higher for three-year budget period of 2021–2022.

  • $54 billion Budget deficit offset by one-time $15 billion windfall.

  • CA trade, transportation, utilities, and construction have returned to pre-COVID levels, and

  • Leisure and hospitality services are still in decline but by 10% less than at the height of COVID

So, what does this mean for you? Things are still not great… but it’s definitely getting better. As a marketer in California, here’s what you can do:

  • Pivot, pivot, pivot. Listen to your clients to get an idea on what changes need to be made with your brand, product or service.

  • Network, network, network — it’s all about who you know in this town.

  • Get help — avail of CARES — PPP, EIDL, Grants, etc., get valuable business advice from the Small Business Administration, get a mentor, and business partners for collaborations.

  • Keep learning — understand the economy of California and determine your special sauce and approach, get feedback and reviews from clients, get updated on recent innovations, and keep up with the latest trends.

  • Find your niche and own it — know your strength and opportunities to get a clear focus on your marketing.

  • Support a cause — it’s not enough for you to sell a product or service. Customers in California are expecting you to take a position on social and political issues in order to earn their business and loyalty.

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” — Walt Disney

For more business tips, check out my other blogs on Medium. And email us for help with marketing and branding for your small business.

5 views0 comments