General Market Campaigns Are Dead: Meet the Many Faces of Today’s Consumers

Consumer demographics in America are changing rapidly. Ethnic consumers comprise the majority of the population in most major U.S. cities and by 2020 two out of every five U.S. residents will belong to an ethnic minority. To succeed as a communicator or marketer, it’s no longer enough to translate a general market message when trying to reach niche audiences. Instead, brands need to truly understand the cultural and geographic diversity of the target consumer and then cater to those specifics as part of a marketing campaign or outreach efforts. In addition to Latinos, who Bloomberg reports will spend $1.5 trillion on U.S. goods and services by 2015 and African-Americans, who are forecasted to reach $1.3 trillion by 2017,the importance of connecting with multicultural consumers extends to other groups as well. Below are just a few of the more “general market” sub-groups that should not be ignored:

Baby Boomers:This group, defined as age 55 and older, actually has money to spend—controlling 70% of disposable income in the United States. Boomers are utilizing mobile technology and Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus are growing among older demographics. 38-42 percent of Boomers use social networking, and one in five use social media sites as a source of health-care information. According to a study by eMarketer, 49 percent of Boomer/Senior tablet users and 40 percent of smartphone users made at least one purchase within the last year after gathering information on their mobile device. This group is a purchasing powerhouse with purse strings!

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT): Business Insider estimates put the buying power of the LGBT community at over $800 billion annually. Most sources indicate LGBT consumers have more disposable income when compared to the average American household. According to a survey done by Prudential in 2012, gay consumers were more likely to have higher educations, carry less debt, have more savings and were less likely to be jobless with an unemployment rate of almost a point below the national percentage. Marketers should be sure that marketing plans accommodate and are inclusive of this valuable target.

Aspirationals: More than one-third of consumers globally identify as trendsetting consumers who are seeking sustainability consumption. This is the largest consumer segment, with clear dominance in the two largest developing markets – India (42 percent) and China (53 percent). Aspirationals want to purchase with a purpose, so they are a particularly important segment for companies who are making sustainability and “doing good” part of mainstream culture.


Hipsters, Millennials, Gen Y (oh my!): This generation is different from those of the past and to be relevant to this group, Marketers need to understand their mindset. They value and recognize authenticity and pay for products that feel person to them, which is why character-driven campaigns have had the most success in reaching this group. With a population estimated at roughly 72 million, Generation Y is soon-to-be the largest generation ever. According to marketing research firm Kelton Research, Gen Y’s spending power is almost $200 billion a year – not something to bat an eye at.

evolutionofthehipster-300x198The most successful multicultural campaigns involve delving into the wants and needs of ethnic consumers. This is why it’s essential for marketers to incorporate multiethnic thinking into the core strategy of brand efforts rather than as an afterthought. By exploring new platforms and looking at campaign-related efforts through a multicultural lens, brands have the ability to move away from “translating” general market messages and make a shift toward building outreach efforts that empower specific sub-groups to become brand advocates – bringing products into their own social conversations.

According to an article in Forbes, multicultural audiences have taken the lead in social media usage and mobile technology adoption. Across the board, word of mouth is also the most trusted source of product recommendations, so it’s important that brands build culturally relevant campaigns in order to engage consumers in positive brand experiences and thus building trust. Smart brands are looking beyond the stereotypes – based on the notion that “advertising is a mirror,” implanting cultural relevance and values into marketing campaigns helps consumers to identify with and feel affinity for companies and brands.

Simply put, brands cannot reach everyone with one message or campaign or product. It’s a thing of the past. Each culturally subgroup needs tailored messages in order to effectively connect and fully embrace a brand. It’s imperative for brands to put thought into who they specifically want to reach, submerse themselves in the corresponding culture, ideals and thinking, and then build a campaign from the ground up.

2 thoughts on “General Market Campaigns Are Dead: Meet the Many Faces of Today’s Consumers

  1. Sarah,

    Oh, the hipsters. Love them or hate them, they can’t be missed. However in the article you linked, I think Ms. Bylenga, president Outlaw Consulting, is oversimplifying the group.

    She states, “Millennials, or Gen Ys, are definitely different. They seem to feel more empowered – and more entitled– than any generation before them. They have an innate team orientation that makes them excellent collaborators. And the ideas about issues like marriage and career are radically different. Their “American dream” isn’t about the picket fence; it’s a flexible freelance career and a life defined by passion. … Gen Ys see themselves as change-makers.”

    I would agrue that every youth movement shares these ideals. We all want to change the world when we’re young. We all think are parents had it all wrong, and that we know how to make the world a better place. We just dress differently when we do it (hippie vs. hipster).

    But, I completely agree with the point you drive home. You must understand the market segmentation (demographics, psychographics, behavioristics, etc.) of your target audience in order to reach them and gain their brand loyalty. Ethnographic studies are one of the best ways to do this.

    I wonder if an ethnographic study has been done on Hipsters. I’d give it a read.


    1. Josiah,

      I looked for one on Hipsters but didn’t find anything specific. Agreed that I’d like to read one as well because I think that there are a lot of companies who are building campaigns targeted that crowd. Please give me a shout if you come across anything about that group specifically!

      You bring up the point about “rebelling” when we are young – but it’s actually interesting, there have been studies done about Gen X/Y vs. Millennials and the two groups actually have a different type of “rebellion” phase. Basically the way youth think now IS NOT the same as they did when I was younger. The campaign has to be nuanced in a different way if you are truly trying to reach the youth target.

      TRU who recently changed their name has some great studies:

      Thanks for the comment!

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