Thinking of Consumers Like We Think of Ourselves

As marketers, we are often guilty of thinking that our target consumers closely resemble us in terms of lifestyle, language spoken and media usage. We know that Moms 25-49 are not like us, but when we start to think about them we see things through our own filters. We begin to believe they eat the same thing we do, speak the way we do, an uses media the way we do. Believing that our lifestyle is what is accepted as normal in the mainstream, we are convinced that everyone lives their lives like us.

Due to assumptions like these, we plan campaigns where there is an ocean of mismatch, such as ultra-digital campaigns that require respondents to take multiple actions before they get to the desired outcome. Or we have them scan QR codes on magazines and newspaper that run our ads, not considering how the target may not even know how to install a QR code reader. Then we’re surprised that our campaigns didn’t turn out so well.

With our own biases and filters that inform our outlook of the world, it’s hard to understand consumers who lead a different lifestyle than us. We venture to say that because we are such heavy users of Facebook and everyone we know has account, we should have a Facebook messaging strategy. Facebook may be a great tool to increase social chatter and message to your fans, but not every brand needs Facebook.

Before marketers can be any good at their jobs, they need to have a basic understanding that lifestyles vary. Traveling help us understand this at a more personal level, but more than that, immersion in a culture is paramount. Take the train 5 miles out and walk in a different neighborhood. Notice what people are doing, who they’re with, what conversations do they have. How different is it from yours?

It’s easy to take out the segmentation cards and brand everyone that qualifies with a A18-49 stamp. Yet real life is messy. People are not easily categorized. The most interesting people I’ve met are those who defy stereotypes. Someone who studied art history and have a whimsical personality and works in finance. Someone who is 30, married with 2 kids, doesn’t cook and keeps tabs on music and fashion trends like a teen. Someone who has a six-figure household income and extremely frugal that she still drives the same car she drove in college. These are real people. How do we market to them when they are outside the auspices of Nielsen-classified segments?

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