I'm on the road a lot. My home is in Indiana, but my office is at USA Today's headquarters in northern Virginia. In addition to my longer-than-average commute, I'm constantly traveling as part of my job: A three-day conference in Phoenix, followed by two days of calls in New York City, topped off by a day-and-a-half management offsite comprise a typical month's schedule.
A brand marketer would therefore look at my profile and peg me as a "frequent business traveler" or "road warrior." And I'll gladly accept that designation. If it doesn't apply to me, then it doesn't apply to anyone. But the problem is, putting me in that bucket will only get you so far, and misses a huge portion of who I am as a consumer. Sure, I'm on the road a lot, and a lot of that time I'm thinking of work, dealing with the day-to-day tasks of my job. But I'm also in contact with my wife, making myriad purchase decisions: dinner reservations for that evening, or discussing vacation plans for the weekend or the next school break, or whether it's time to replace the washing machine, or roof, or car…the list goes on and on.
In this respect, I'm your typical 21st century professional: My work life and home life are constantly merging, then breaking apart, then coming together again. Sure, I'm a business traveler, but I'm also a vacation planner, a voracious consumer of books and music, a purchaser of home appliances, cars, insurance policies, and dozens of other consumer and business goods and services. I don't have one consumer profile; I've got a dozen. And I switch from one to another a moment's notice.
What's the lesson in all this for marketers? The temptation is to throw up one's hands and move on, but there's actually a simple way to effectively speak to people like me: Kick the buckets. Putting me in a specific demographic bucket and then trying to target me with a specific message at a specific time and place is an almost impossible task, like trying to hit a bulls-eye on a northbound train while you're on a horse moving south. Instead, accept me for the shape-shifter that I am, but understand that wherever I am, my needs as a consumer remain constant -- and I become more aware of those needs while I'm away from home.
USA Today recently completed a study with the independent research form Latitude, the purpose of which was to better learn consumers' attitudes towards media while they're on the road. This is of obvious importance to our brand, but we gained a lot of intelligence of value to brand marketers as well.
One thing we learned is that when people travel, their appetite for news and information increases -- 76% of the more than 1,000 people surveyed have a greater appetite for news and information when they're on the road, according to the study. Why is this the case? No matter how comfortable you are on the road, as the old saw goes, there's no place like home. And keeping up with the latest news makes people less lonely and feel more connected to the world around them. It also gives them ideas for how to pass the time, whether it's dining out, going to a museum or shopping.
Where are people getting their news when they're on the road? TV? Laptop? Smartphone? Tablet? Newspaper? Magazine? Radio? The short answer is "all of the above." The average traveler uses 3.57 devices to access news and information on while on the road, and each one offers an advantage. For example, TV is considered the best platform for finding out what's happening in the world, while newspapers are tops for in-depth analysis as well as what's going on locally. Newspapers make a great breakfast companion, while smartphones are most useful when one is in transit.
A key takeaway is that each platform adds value to the others. For consumers, 79% said that going to a news source with a print and digital component makes for a better, more unified experience. Most importantly for marketers, consumers trust a brand more when its advertising message appears across multiple platforms -- 69% of those polled said seeing brands advertised across multiple platforms made them think more highly of the brand.
So don't throw up your hands. Instead, embrace the demographic mosaic that is the modern consumer. While I always like to get the last word in, one of the study's respondents put it better than I ever could: "Travelers like me feel like we have unlimited choices and that 'no' is never the answer. Anything I want I can basically find when I'm traveling. Our standards are higher because we know that we can get all the information about a place before we get to our destination."
About the Author
John T. Peters (@johntpeters) is the President of the USA Today Travel Media Group, which develops products and solutions for USA Today's travel partners and on-the-go audience by reaching travelers every step of the way in their travel planning experience - from research to booking to travel to reviews. Anchored by USA Today's award-winning travel website, it encompasses all travel initiatives across USA Today, including digital, magazines, print, mobile and tablet. Key properties include The Point, Experience Travel, 10Best.com, Reviewed.com/cruises and Tripology.