Zoom Media: How Technology is Reducing Importance of Traditional Demos

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In an election year, identity politics reign supreme. Voters latch onto the groups they identify with the most, and campaigns subtly manipulate their message to appease these groups.  The endeavor to win over voters is similar to that of consumers. Marketers identify consumer segments and then target these segments based on their perceived interests, habits and worldviews. If you’re reading this, chances are you already know about market segmentation. You also know that Millennials are considered the prized demographic. For advertisers, there’s a temptation to pull everything through the keyhole of the Millennial worldview. This invites a rather elusive question: what is the worldview of Millennials?

I could throw out some MRI data to help explain Millennials, like people 18-34 are 55 percent more likely to listen to dance music, or, more significantly, that they are 46 percent more likely to have used H&R Block TaxCut for their tax preparations.

Marketers often sit in a high perch, generalizing the ant-size consumers below them. They measure, catalogue and analyze generational groups’ every movement. But there comes a breaking point where marketers have to stop pretending there is a level of statistical proof that will fully define the Millennial generation.

Categorizing a group of people based on age ranges is a vapid exercise, reducing a historically diverse generation like Millennials into a mere label. Contrary to popular belief, a Millennial is just as likely to hold a managerial position as she is to be an 18-24-year-old college student. In fact, a Millennial is just as likely to be 30 years old or older as she is to be in the 18-24 age range. (No one needs to delineate the differences between 30-somethings and a 21-year-old college student.)

Sure, there are some noticeable distinctions between a lot of Millennials and their elders. Millennials undoubtedly have a more contemporary frame of reference. They did not grow up watching Little House on the Prairie; many have not seen Annie Hall or Taxi Driver; most do not appreciate the fact that the world was once run on floppy disks; their language is emojis and their currency is Instagram followers.  

Nevertheless, recent trends suggest the gap between Millennials and Gen Xers is closing. In 2012, Millennials were 30 percent more likely to connect to Wi-Fi outside of their homes than Gen Xers; that disparity has now narrowed to 18 percent. In 2012, Millennials were 54 percent more likely to purchase music online compared to older generations; that percentage has now dropped to 42 percent, in part because Gen Xers have also joined the online music scene. In 2016, Gen Xers are now a growing presence on Millennial-dominated messaging apps like Snapchat.

In a world where dinner, or a dress, can be delivered to your door through a simple click of a button, consumers are no longer tethered to the routines and lifestyles of yesteryear.  The ubiquity of the Internet has liberated consumers to explore and indulge their interests anytime, anywhere.  And improvements in user experience have empowered older generations to join the digital age, eliminating age barriers in the process.

As a result, the concept of Millennials and Gen Xers is no longer real.  It’s Astroturf. Media buyers who rely on traditional demos are being naïve at best, disingenuous at worst.

The best indicator that explains a consumer is mindset. Foodies, bookworms, globetrotters, fitness enthusiasts -- these interests and habits form a mindset, which is far more likely to determine how a person thinks, how a person consumes. Marketing to mindsets not only demonstrates a personal understanding of consumers, it also guarantees any branded message will be heard and received by the targeted consumer.

Moreover, mindsets are shared by consumers of all ages. If a fitness apparel company broadly targets Millennials under the assumption that they are more active and fit than older generations, there’s a good chance that campaign will not resonate with Gen Xers or Baby Boomers who also enjoy an active lifestyle.

At an IEG conference in April, Lesa Ukman, then the Futures Director at IEG, told the audience: “It’s not an age group, it’s an attitude. A mindset defined by key characteristics.  Marketing to a mindset wins over the biggest number of people.”

For advertisers hoping to reach the consumer that best represents their brand, targeting a certain mindset provides the best pipeline.

This column was written by Lorraine Pyne, Senior Director of Strategic Solutions, Zoom Active Lifestyle Marketing.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers. 

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