Demography Gone Wild

zits cartoon







This comic strip is one I follow regularly. My parents are certain our house was bugged by the authors when I was a child, thus the fodder for the author. Special thanks to Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman for their contribution to capturing the modern parent/child relationship.

While I chuckle at how uncomfortably close these comics run to my coming of age, this one in particular made me think. It came into my inbox at a time when I was deep in the throes of annual strategy development for many of my clients. It suddenly caused me to look at the demos of each client and I saw the common thread: teens/young adults and women. It begs the question, are we over-doing it on these two groups?

The research says that teenagers and females not only have the most disposable income, but they also are more willing to spend this income on discretionary items and, in the case of women, reallocate family budgets to fund services or products deemed “necessary” to the health and welfare of the family. This is indisputable. Its fact. Carved in stone. No argument.

But if we hammer the stone too hard, will it break?

Young consumers have grown up in a world where absorbing and deflecting hundreds of marketing messages a day, an hour, is a part of life. They are more discerning about messaging and more fragmented in how they receive information than older generations. They are easier to get to, but harder to get through. The term around the industry is interruptive messaging, or simply messaging that is unsolicited. The younger the consumer, the less the effect of interruptive messages. Interruptive or integrated, this consumer will make up their mind on their own based on their feelings ATM (at the moment).

On the opposite side are the highly grid-connected women consumers. While they are highly susceptible to both interruptive and integrated messages, they tend to be unwilling to admit, often vehemently, this truth. Even if influenced by an “ad”, they are not likely to assign much weight of the influence to that vehicle, thus they also more defensive to interruptive messages. While they respond best to verified testimonial (their “friends”), traditional marketing and PR carry a significant portion of influence in their buying habits. And with women consistently owning 85% of a household’s buying power, that’s a significant portion.

We know so much about these demos and their buying habits are attractive, but considering my earlier question: are we facing a breaking of the rock, a change in the pendulum, a paradigm shift, is there a tipping point…are we going to hit them so hard that they start ignoring us as marketers?

Probably not. This is not a new problem. The industry has been creating a lot of static for a number of years and spending has only increased. We, as marketers, have chipped away at the practicality of a consumer to the point where luxury has become the norm. We work with home builders and this industry probably shows the most evidence to this theory. When granite countertops become a trend and a mudroom is a mandatory addition to the floor plan, we can see where luxury becomes commodity. The consumer, just through evolution, becomes more discerning about what appeals to them individually as the next thing. It is not practical, it is emotional. The consumer has adapted and that’s why we’re constantly adapting, too. We may see ebbs and flows, but as a rule, we can be confident that our culture will continue to be built on the foundation of advertising and marketing.

From snake oil salesmen in covered wagons to retargeting ads and interactive videos on multiple screens, advertising has and will continue to move the economy and satisfy the craving for what’s next; no matter how many times we hit them over the head, they will keep coming back for more.