Understanding your target consumer

If the brand you represent has not defined and aligned itself with a set of core values, I highly encourage you to do so.

In my last post, we discussed the emergence of values-based marketing, as well as PR's rightful place as a leader among marketing disciplines. PR professionals are putting that into practice by engaging consumers through meaningful programs that they can relate to and that resonate with them on a deep level.

The best of these programs arise from the sweet spot where a brand's values and those of its target consumers intersect. If the brand you represent has not defined and aligned itself with a set of core values, I highly encourage you to do so. Remember, these values need not be purely of the altruistic variety. In this context, we define “values” as a set of attributes: a brand can choose to stand for fun, passion, being surprising, pushing the envelope, authenticity, or innovation.

But the second half of this equation — what the consumer values — is every bit as important. For the past two years, global research company Iconoculture has been polling consumers across all age and market segments, asking them to rate themselves on a seven-point scale from “doesn't describe me at all” to “describes me exactly” against 93 possible values. Exploring the differences between Millenials, Generation Xers, and Boomers reveals some fascinating insights, which can serve as thought-starters for creative, values-based PR programming development.

Of all three generations, Millennials rank “success” the highest. In fact, it is the No. 1 value they most identify with. “Happiness” is right behind at No. 2 and “comfort” comes in at No. 5, while “responsibility” sits down at No. 15, and “practicality” lies all the way down at No. 44.  Remind you of any 20-somethings you know?

Go up in years to Gen-X, and it's no surprise that this generation ranks “family” much more highly than Millennials at No. 6. “Reliability” appears in the top 15, while “comfort” falls to No. 11, and “happiness” is at No. 13.

Interestingly, Boomers who came of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s have seemingly retained the ideals of those time periods, with “justice” ranking No. 2 on their list of top values, even ahead of “success” at No. 6. “Loyalty” and “honesty” ranked at No. 1 and No. 5, respectively. “Happiness” and “comfort” — the stuff today's Millennials value — don't even crack Boomers' top 15.

So which value resonates most across all generations? Loyalty. It hits on all cylinders, cited as the No. 1 value of both Gen-X and Boomers and No. 3 for Millennials.

To be sure, companies shouldn't seek to adopt values that don't fit with their brand, nor should they rewrite their key messages to ride every new trend.

However, PR people must familiarize themselves with the values that matter most to their target consumers. These values offer an insightful glimpse into the deeper, underlying motivators that influence much of their behavior. We must show that our discipline, which embodies values-based marketing at its core, can help brands resonate with consumers in a powerful way — and we must show it through research, narrative storytelling, and creativity.

In the words of Judie Lannon, editor of Market Leader, "Brand choices are part of the clues that define people in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Brands are publicly shared aspects of culture. Their power derives from the shared public-ness of their various meanings." The better we understand these aspects of shared culture, the better we can create relevant, long-lasting relationships.

Samara Farber Mormar is SVP for insights and strategy at Hunter Public Relations.

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