One of the cardinal sins committed by marketers is to create neat stereotypes of customers – to assume they all fit within prescribed profiles or segments, have consistent motivations and behave in predictable ways.
Worse still is the ‘people like us syndrome’ – whereby we project our own tastes and values on to our target audience and assumes they will share them.
In other words we often market to the customers we would like to have rather than the ones we actually do have.
I think there is a key reason for this. Marketing in general and Advertising in particular is notable for a demographic structural imbalance that has serious implications for the long-term health of the brands it represents.
This imbalance is that the people who work in the industry are not representative of the wider population – the very people we go to such lengths to research, profile and ‘engage’ with.
For example, whilst there is no shortage of women working in agency account management at a junior level only 3% of agency Creative Directors are female. As the proportion of UK population aged over 50 is forecast to grow by 38% by 2030 the proportion of ad agency employees in this age bracket is a whopping… 5%.
Walk around any agency or marketing department and see if you can spot any grey-haired men (let alone women!) outside of the corner office.
Quite simply, the flat white sipping, quinoa-munching denizens of Soho and Shoreditch are about as unrepresentative of the ‘real world’ as it is possible to get.
This wouldn’t particularly matter - except for the fact that it results in a large swathe of consumers feeling that brands they have been loyal to are now either ignoring them entirely or side-lining them as they attempt to appeal to an elusive ‘new’ audience.
Of course it is essential to consider your future audience – but it makes no sense to discard your current one in the process.