The Old Demographic Rules Aren't Enough Anymore

Our Clients Must Watch Wallet Share Not Market Share

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It took deep fried turkey, shiner bock beer and a few local shopping malls to remind me how most of America lives.
My Thanksgiving trip to Texas hammered home the new realities of the country's rapidly changing demographics.
My Thanksgiving trip to Texas hammered home the new realities of the country's rapidly changing demographics.

Being in New York City means that you are in a world of constant motion and instant gratification. For example, the dress on the cover of Vogue appears in a window a day after the magazine hits the stands. At least five stores in Manhattan carried the new PlayStation 3 and, importantly, each store will get a shipment of 100-200 more units than those outside of the state. Or it may be that a story in New York Magazine will have a profound effect on the number of copies of the new Dan Brown novel. New York is about instant results.

This past weekend it was nice to get away from this.

Not because the crowd of people or the loud cab horns become too much to bear. Those things are merely constant reminders of where I live. It's nice to get away because too often, I think it is too easy for us [and please understand I'm not saying all of us] to get caught up in our jobs and forget how the people who are buying our client's products really live. [After all, we can' tall have stock photo lives where everyone has shiny teeth, shiny cars and lots of shiny cash.]
Noelle Weaver Noelle Weaver


This year the holiday took me deep into Texas. The land of Ford pickup trucks [it is estimated that one Ford truck is sold every four minutes in Texas], bar-b-que and massive amounts of brand new brick housing developments next to US 30. $2.50 for a beer? This was a wake-up call.

With the announcement of the 300 millionth baby being born back in October, a lot of interesting statistics from the U. S. Census either went unreported or were buried on page 12 of the news. Here are some of [what I think] the more interesting facts released this year:

  • The South recorded both the largest numerical population increase [1.5 million] and the fastest rate of growth [1.4 percent];
  • For the first time ever, there was a higher percentage of unmarried couples than married leading our nation's 111.1 million households [50.3 vs. 49.7];
  • In 2005, the nation's minority population totaled 98 million, or 33 percent, of the country's total population;
  • Real median household income in the United States rose by 1.1 percent between 2004 and 2005, reaching $46,326; and
  • There are over 150 million women online and they are now outpacing men in terms of internet, email and computer usage.
Those numbers tell me a lot of things about what we really are in the U.S., what we need to recognize as marketers, and how the "average American" is changing. But what I'm really getting to in this post can be encompassed in five simple words:

Wallet share not market share.

That sentence recently appeared on a client brief and I have no shame in admitting that I stole it. There's no doubt about it, the consumer is changing and that change is affecting the very way we need to reach them.

They're more diverse. They expect more from brands and they're more passionate about the [brand] company they keep. The college aged kid in Kansas is going to be just as interested in the new Matsuya album as the NYU student because both have read about it, and have access to it online. Hawaii, Cruise Ships and Napa wine country are no longer just for honeymooning couples. There's a bunch of Yankees moving to the red states and that is going to change purchase patterns. Those companies who take the time to understand diverse ethnic groups will lead in the future.

In short? Grouping consumers by age or demographic is no longer enough when they are grouping themselves by shared interests and beliefs.

I have no doubt that this age of information, innovation and change does not only lend itself to technology, it lends itself to who we are as a people. How we are interacting with each other. How we interact with companies and brands. And how we react to being marketed to.

After all, why should I pay attention to you if you're not really speaking to me?

You may think your customer is a 27 year old female living in Austin with one child and a household income of $30,000 a year. But really she's a new mother who can't sleep at 2:00 am because her child keeps having ear aches and is in an online chat room wondering if there's anyone who can offer suggestions on what to do.

Is your client there to?

PS: Before anyone gives me a hard time about being a New Yorker, I grew up in a Midwest blue collar manufacturing town, population 15,000 where the big draw is not one, but two Wal-Marts. While I may live in the big city today and pay $8.00 for a glass of bourbon, I'll never forget my roots.
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