Marketers have often ignored lifestyle when breaking down their target audience. For more than half a century marketers have sliced and diced society by age, race, and gender. The idea was that if you can determine the year a person was born, among other demographic certitudes, you can easily assume they will choose this breakfast cereal over that one, and so on. To understand consumers meant trusting a kind of algorithm that marketers could use to show they understood mass trends.
Not today. We live in an increasingly fragmented society where buckets of demographic data are not enough for us to assess consumer behavior. People are no longer understood by who they are rather than what they do and believe. Technology has broadened the microscope — Social media, search habits, and other digital-forward methods have allowed forecasters to realize that consumers within traditional demographic categories are not necessarily the same and that perhaps a better way to understand how behavior is evolving is to categorize people by what they like, not what they look like.
Passion is a much better assessment because it is the thing that motivates people to get out of bed in the morning and it is what drives their purchasing decisions. What unifies groups are indeed how they congregate, how they self-identify, and what behaviors they hold as sacred. Digital media is grooming this development by allowing people with niche interests to find one another, creating unexpected but loyal communities that are growing at a rate that is faster than what would have been possible in the past.
So now we have young people who no longer need mass culture because they have established their own, smaller versions that suit them and others. They exist in tribes defined by tastes. Understanding both their motivation and loyalty to a belief system is much more valuable for a brand than the raw data that only tells us their genetic makeup.
This new reality disrupts the top-down marketing approach of the past and forces trend watchers to reassess consumers in a way that is more organic, and ultimately more tangible for brands. Understanding why we eat is knowledge that can tell us more about broader consumer beliefs and values. Getting to the heart of the person will pay longer dividends to brands that, up to now, only saw their consumers as raw data.
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