What Post-Demographic Consumerism Means to Your Organization

Nov 17, 2015



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As marketing and public relations professionals, we rely on demographic information to make strategic decisions. But, for many reasons, consumers aren’t behaving like they once did.

POST-DEMOGRAPHIC CONSUMERISM: People—of all ages and in all markets—are constructing their own identities more freely than ever. As a result, consumption patterns are no longer solely defined by “traditional” demographic segments such as age, gender, location, income, family status and more.

Several factors are fueling the trend:

1) The availability of information that makes it easier for consumers to discover and avail themselves of new products and services

2) New (non-material) status symbols

3) How social influence has changed the way people interact with brands

This means the assumptions we once made based on demographics like age, education, gender and income, are no longer universally true. Society is becoming more liberal, and conventions, such as family structure and gender roles are changing. Consumer values are evolving and the internet and social media have transformed how we share information and make decisions.

So, how can youruse this trend to inspire and guide your SEO and content marketing strategies?

Update Your Buyer Personas

Fictional representations of your ideal customers, buyer personas are based on qualitative and quantitative data about customer demographics and online behavior as well as educated speculation about their histories, motivations, and concerns.

Consider new audiences. Think about your product or service. Are there groups who may be interested but have been left out of the conversation?

Thug Kitchen is a website created to get a new audience to consider a vegan diet and healthy eating, a lifestyle formerly dominated by a wealthy, aspirational demographic. Letting go of stereotypes and thinking about what audiences were being ignored, Thug Kitchen discovered an untapped market; and, by changing the type of language and sentiment typically used to discuss this topic, it appealed to and connected with this group. 

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Create niche personas. Think about your current target audiences. There are likely smaller subsets with attributes distinct from the broader group.

Realizing that societal norms are changing, Honey Maid sought to carve out a niche from its broader audience (families with children) and create a campaign that would appeal specifically to non-traditional families.

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Brainstorm with the customer service and sales people in your organization. Generally, the ones with the most customer contact will be able to provide insight about audiences who have been overlooked.

Broaden Your Content Strategy

A content strategy includes your keyword research and selection, how you use content to create demand for your products or services, the actual content you develop, and the online channels you use to share your messages with your target audiences.

Find keyword phrases that resonate on a deeper level.

Values are changing. New status symbols (experiences, authenticity, connection, acquired skills, health, ethical and sustainable lifestyles etc.) are replacing the more material ones of the past. That means the words people use to search online are also changing. 

The type of people interested in your products is changing as well. Demographic indicators don't mean what they once did. Seniors are getting into yoga. Twenty-somethings are forming knitting clubs. However, these new potential audiences have varying levels of awareness about your organization and industry. While your unique value proposition may be the same, the way you communicate it should be updated and tailored to each buyer persona. 

Consider why and how each of your specific audiences searches for your goods or services online. Then, develop keyword phrases with language that matches their vocabulary, their values, and their knowledge level about your organization and industry. 

Develop audience-specific content.

The the buying process is no longer linear. Prospects don’t only enter at the top of the marketing funnel; they come in at various stages. Often, they skip stages, remain stuck in one stage, or jump back and forth between them. One reason: many consumers do their own research both online and through friends and contacts.

In many ways, your prospects are taking themselves through the funnel, which means your content has to be as effective as your best sales representative.

You have to know your buyer personas and understand where they are likely to be entering the funnel, what questions they might have, and by whom or what they are influenced. 

Your keyword phrases will guide your content development, and your buyer personas will inform what formats and channels you choose. (Think: infographics, videos, photos, tutorials, articles and forums.)

Need some inspiration? Lowe's Pinterest page shares content for its various niche audiences, like crafters, cooks, DIYers and football fans, and provides information based on each audience's interests, knowledge level and stage in the marketing funnel.

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Embrace Social Media

Social media has forever altered the way people buy products and services. Increasingly, consumers make purchase decisions based on information from brand advocates who share their experiences in a way that attracts new customers and influences them to make (or not make) a purchase.

Join the conversation.

Word of mouth has always been important. People asked the opinions of friends, neighbors or physicians, or heard a rave review that inspired a purchase. But now, reviews and recommendations spread faster and further at every stage of the marketing funnel. Many organizations struggle with how to take part—where to jump in, how to respond to negative feedback, and what information to share.

Recognizing the weight of social influence, Sephora created an online community where people can ask questions of experts and each other about brands, products, and techniques. In essence, the company brought all the stages of the marketing funnel together in one place—a place where Sephora could monitor and moderate, as necessary.

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Learn to operate in a gift economy.

In our hyper-connected, crowd-sourced world, organizations have to figure out how to enable and empower, not just persuade and promote. 

A Harvard Business Review article from way back in 2012, likens social media to a gift economy, similar to those observed by anthropologists studying indigenous cultures. A gift economy runs on social currency and is based on relationships instead of transactions. Companies, inherently focused on transactions, often struggle to thrive in a gift economy.

What's more, social media has disconnected advocacy—the last stage of a traditional marketing funnel—from purchase. You don't necessarily have to be a customer to be an advocate. Just check out Tesla Motors 757,986 Facebook likes, certainly many from people who don't own Teslas but like the brand enough to engage with it on social media. According to Joel Lunenfeld, VP of Global Brand Marketing at Twitter, “The new social currency is sharing what’s cool in the moment." 

So, how do organizations succeed on social media?

  • Facilitate relationships, like Sephora did with Beauty Talk
  • Earn respect and admiration by celebrating the successes of others and enabling people to celebrate one another.
  • Create social currencies related to your brand. Remember, a social currency is sharing what's currently cool, funny, interesting, compelling, etc.

A spectacular example of social currency, Blendtec's Will It Blend YouTube series, where they blend every day objects from iPads to golf balls, has accumulated over 200 million views and 685 thousand subscribers.

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How will you change your strategy to account for the transforming consumer? Need some advice for how these ideas could work for your organization, consider taking one of our workshops.



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Maribeth Neelis

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As a digital marketing strategist, Maribeth loves learning and writing about content marketing, social media, SEO, paid advertising, PR and mobile. She is obsessed with data-driven marketing and believes all online channels should be given a strategy, so engagement can be personalized and well targeted. In her free time, she likes watching science documentaries, hiking, skiing and traveling to far-flung places.


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