Seeing red: Stop putting people in boxes

Consumers know when marketing tactics are being used so don't reduce them to labels, says Berkeley PR account executive Jessica Little.

I recently attended a conference for PRs, discussing ways in which brands can engage with consumer groups such as ‘foodies’, ‘techies’, ‘bargain hunters’, ‘high-end consumers’, ‘silver surfers’ and ‘yummy mummies’, to list a few. Of course, this is nothing new. We’re all used to demographic labels and brands have long focused on ‘Mondeo man’ or ‘frenetic families’.

But consumers no longer fit into these boxes and it drives me mad to see people reduced to a label. We have access to more data than ever and can tailor our brand interactions accordingly. We have a variety of interests that cross sectors and the label we give ourselves is dependent on the occasion and the company we keep.

Two brands that recognise this are Lidl and Aldi. Both retailers regularly report that their customers are increasingly mixed demographically, despite what their core brand values would suggest.

Apple is another brand that seems to shun niche labels. Its approach to market segmentation has played a major part in its success in my view. Its strategy is to provide products that appeal to the everyday consumer, rather than to exclusively appeal to the early adopters or those with high disposable incomes.

Many PRs have long prided themselves on having the ‘niche-sector knowledge’ to target a specific consumer type. However, it has never been more important to have a wider understanding in order to market to consumers more effectively.

Our industry needs to stop putting people in boxes. Consumers are individuals – and know if marketing tactics are being used. Targeting individual groups will not work in an age of personalisation, and it’s the job of PRs to understand the broader landscape of consumer behaviour, people’s interests and how they shop.

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