Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Launching Head-First into A New Demo (And I Like It)
By Cory Treffiletti It's incredible just how much a significant life change can affect your media consumption habits. Just this past week my wife and I gave birth to our first baby, a precious little boy (and he's adorable, just in case you were curious). I have to say that this wonderful event, along with the fact that I'm getting older, officially puts me in an entirely new demographic!
Last year I left for good the hallowed halls of the coveted 18-34-year-old male segment and entered that more refined, well-structured and infinitely more complex 35-54-year-old demo, but now I've also become part of the "1+ children in the household" segment, and I wouldn't have it any other way!
For years I've built media recommendations and marketing plans that reached out to specific segments of an audience, but not until now did I truly understand the subtle differences between these groups. As a male 35-54, and a parent, my media usage patterns have changed substantially from when I was in my 20s and single. My choices truly reflect more of a family unit and less of the selfishness of time that was indicative of my younger days. Disposable income is a thing of the past, as my resources are focused on family and my time is far more valuable because I'm sharing it with other people whom I love and cherish deeply.
Along with the obvious issues of how I, as part of this audience segment, spend my time comes the new ways that I view the world. Aging brings with it a certain maturation of the soul; I'm not as obsessed with the same things as I was when I was younger, and I am gaining more of an appreciation for family and long-term relationships. I seek balance and an understanding of the ways that I can benefit my immediate surroundings, which re-emphasizes my focus on the family.
Of course many of you have already experienced these kinds of life passages, too. I'm discovering that these changes are reflected in my use of digital media as well, and are far deeper than some description of a target audience that I pull from a brand study. These are true-life changes for real-world people!
Mobile becomes surprisingly important for this group, once we've overcome the hurdles of comfort and familiarity and past the early adopters (people like me) who love gadgets for gadgets' sake. When you're on the go and you're trying to balance work and home life, and both represent a stronger force than when you're younger, mobile allows you an access point that you really can't do without. It becomes a lifeline and a means of staying connected while you're away from home or office. It creates convenience that didn't exist a few years ago. In 2008, the fastest growing group of users for mobile data services was males 35-54 years (source: AccuraCast), which should come as no surprise when you realize the strides that have emerged from this category in just the last two years!
My segment is also spending increasing time with social media. According to a study that was released by iStrategyLabs, the 35-54-year-old demo led the growth of Facebook in 2008, by a jump of 276%! Social media becomes a way of revisiting friendships, getting back into contact with friends from years past. I find personally that it enables me to reconnect with people with whom I haven't spoken for years because they had families and I did not, so our paths had diverged slightly. It never meant that those friendships had suffered, but rather that we had less in common at the time. Now that I have a family and am more structured, I find Facebook to be a great resource. I can share my current experiences with my peers, they can share theirs with me, and we once again have common ground.
Of course, all media is capable of connecting with a consumer, assuming that the media plan was built with a refined target in mind. I am in no way stating that a particular media vehicle is less effective at reaching the family-oriented consumer than the younger, discretionary-income-centric consumer. I'm just commenting on the fact that there is indeed a difference in insight that a run through Nielsen or comScore simply can't provide. You can read the data and build a profile, but you need to take the time to get inside the head of your audience and understand their motivations and concerns. Get to know how they think, rather than just reading the two-dimensional description of what they do.
Understanding leads to better marketing, and better marketing leads to sales, which is what you should really be looking for, right?
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Cory is president and managing partner for Catalyst SF.
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