American demographics are rapidly changing. And, unfortunately for marketers, those changes come with an increased difficulty in defining target audiences and advertising to them accordingly. As if that wasn't enough, the majority of consumers have changed the way they interact with brands through an increased awareness and aversion to traditional advertising. In short, brands are targeting the wrong consumers — and consumers are prepared to scroll past the advertisements that actually reach them.
Brands can't generalize their audiences anymore by marketing to "35-45 year-old mothers" or "suburban teens" — these demographics are far too complex and diverse to be summarized so broadly. In fact, the Pew Research Center, in a report to the Population Association of America (PAA), discovered numerous demographic changes that affect modern marketing:
- The share of American adults who have never been married is at an historic high
- Mothers are now the breadwinner in 40% of US households
- Population growth is projected to slow and tilt strongly to the oldest age groups
- Millennials are on track to be the most educated generation to date
- Asians are the only major racial or ethnic group whose numbers are rising in the US
- By 2055, the US will not have a single racial or ethnic majority
Demographic changes have resulted in behavioral changes as well. For example, today's consumers love to shop. However, in this sense, shopping is not the same thing as buying, meaning commercial conversion rates are low, especially among Millennials. Instead, people search around for deals and consider products on their merits and peer reviews instead of trusting the marketing buzz being advertised by the brand.
Instead of living in fear of consumer feedback, brands should embrace and encourage it. Offer incentives for website reviews or social media posts, make it easy to communicate with your brand online, and never delete negative responses. Instead, respond right from their comments, so other shoppers can see both sides of the review. If you stand by your product or service, your customers will, too.
Also, keep in mind what makes your brand different to identify your unique selling proposition or USP. This is especially important in modern marketing because consumers now care about a business beyond the product. A strong USP is a clear statement about what a business does, who it does it for, and why it wants to do that in the first place. Brands can't be afraid to push the wrong customer away. Find the ideal customer persona and relate to them with a story they can truly and deeply identify with.
With demographics constantly changing, and no longer being a clear indicator of spending habits or personal interests, it's important to check in with your consumers periodically. Stay engaged on social media, email surveys with incentives to participate, and, most importantly, invest in experiential marketing to foster face-to-face interactions.