#12, September 2003
About My Generation
Marketers appear to
be obsessed with different target groups. Words
such as yuppies and dinkies have even entered the
language of non-marketers while there are numerous
studies that analyse different groups of
consumers, the youth market, greys or third-agers,
baby boomers, generations X and Y. There is no
doubt that a deep understanding of different
target markets is an essential component of
An analysis of
these target groups will typically include values
& attitudes, consumption patterns and media
behaviour. One area that is often included but
which is often under-emphasised is pure
demographics. Quite simply, how many people are in
the age group, is it growing or declining and what
proportion of the overall target market do they
represent? While it is possible to spend vast sums
researching areas such as values & attitudes,
tracking demographic changes is relatively easy
A simple analysis
of key demographic changes could show the
the front of the baby boomer generation
reaches retirement age, demand is likely to
soar for leisure services, healthcare products
& services while the demands on state
pension systems and healthcare will also rise
size of the “youth” market in absolute and
percentage terms is declining in some markets.
This could make a popular target market less
attractive to marketers.
This is nothing
new. However, it could be argued that many
marketers are “locked into” certain
demographic groups and are therefore highly
susceptible to changing demographics structures.
To put it simply, a tight focus on a particular
group will mean that the marketer’s level of
success will be dependent on the size of that age
group, i.e. the birth rate. Through the Loop has
analysed this issue to find ways in which
marketers can work with demographics in a
One way to address
the demographic issue is to focus a brand’s
marketing on one particular age. For example,
marketers of alcoholic drinks tend to focus on
consumers who have just reached the legal drinking
age. Not only are they entering the market for but
they are also at an age when they are making many
of their brand choices for the first time. Often
they will stick with the brands they chose at this
stage of their lives.
A focus on the
youth market is common for many brands as they
seek to gain a consumer’s loyalty at a young
age. Consumers have to make brand choices, often
for the first time on their own, as they leave
school, start employment or higher education. In
addition, their disposable income tends to rise
dramatically at this time making their patronage
more desirable. However, an analysis of
demographic trends may show that the “youth”
age group is declining in absolute terms and as a
percentage of the population in many countries.
The net result will be that there are more
marketers chasing ever fewer consumers.
For example, there
has been much discussion about the decline in
sales of recorded music. There has been a debate
about whether this is due to a drop in music
quality or is there a rising incidence of piracy
or illegal downloads over the Internet. While the
former may be true and the latter almost certainly
is, it may also be the case that the size of the
teenager market in countries such as the UK has
meant that the principal buying group for recorded
music has contracted.
A further issue may
be that this approach effectively forces a brand
relaunch each time that the target group is
renewed. The market for baby products is just one
sector that is constantly renewed with sets of
parents constantly joining and leaving the target
group. A brand that targets a specific age group
will always be faced with new potential consumers
and a new challenge.
So one answer may
be to switch the focus of a brand’s marketing to
the demographic group that is growing fastest.
With the move of baby boomers through the age
groups in many countries this group may be the
40-55 age group. Clearly the size of the target
group can be much larger and thus offer the brand
greater potential. However, it may not be such a
simple solution. The product’s usage patterns
will often vary between different age groups.
Again, in the case of alcoholic drinks, young
people will consume different types of drink, in
different quantities, in different places and with
different people than an older couple who have
children at home.
For this reason
there should be alternative ways for marketers to
address the demographics issue. One possibility is
to look into age groups and then beyond this to
identify the characteristics of consumers’ life
brand for life
A brand for life
recognises that a brand may mean different things
to different age groups. Different generations are
exposed to different influences. They grow up in
different environments and this tends to affect
their values and attitudes throughout their lives.
The baby boomer generation grew up with television
and so advertising using this medium has tended to
be an effective way to reach them. The children of
today are growing up viewing the Internet as
something that has always been there. For them
this is not technology but “part of the
furniture.” Older people may be more frugal as a
result of living through wars and shortages and
this may still affect how they make product
choices today. Consequently, targeting by age
group is only part of the solution. Marketers need
to understand more about what the age group mean
in terms of consumer values and attitudes and,
ultimately, consumer behaviour.
marketing moves beyond simple demographics to
understand wider aspects of consumers’ lives.
This is based around the fact that the ways in
which consumers behave change as they move through
different life stages. Consequently, the role for
brands will change. Some of the factors that
impact consumer behaviour as they move through
life stages are as follows:
level of disposable income and the nature of
demands on this income.
children/older children/children left home.
social life/young children restrict a social
life/older children allow social life to be
occasions on which and ways in which products
and services are consumed.
Under this approach
the brand should be managed so that it is relevant
and accessible to different life stages. This is
not about developing a portfolio of brands for
specific age groups but having a single brand or
an umbrella brand that can appeal across the
various stages of consumers’ lives. This strategy
requires brands to have a different expression for
different life stages. Clearly this is an area
that has to be managed extremely carefully. A
brand cannot have two distinct positionings or be
saying two contradictory things as there will be
overlap and potential leakage. One way to work
around this is to develop a central positioning
that can be adapted slightly for different life
stages as long as the core stays constant.
companies can develop portfolios of services that
are targeted at particular life stages. In many
cases they appear to have used the same brand for
these various services with differentiation on the
product/service level. An alternative approach has
been taken by magazine publishers have developed
titles with individual brands that are appropriate
for different life stages. A women’s magazine
publisher can publish titles that target different
life stages from teenage girls through to younger
and older women. Cosmo Girl is an example of where
the publisher has tweaked its Cosmopolitan brand
to reach a younger audience. EMAP is present in
the UK music magazine market with Q and Mojo that
target younger and older life stages.
communications also need to be adapted so that
they are appropriate to the life stages.
One aspect of life stage marketing is that it
acknowledges that media consumption changes with
the life stages. Consequently, the media
channel mix needs to reflect this. It may be
harder to reach young people with what we would
term “traditional” marketing communications.
However, the intensive use of text messaging
through mobile phones in this age group has made
text-based promotional activity very attractive to
marketers and popular with the target audience.
Coca-Cola, Masterfoods and Cadbury Schweppes are
among companies that have made extensive use of
SMS messages in recent promotional activity. In a
similar way young people may be more open to
experiential or Brand Experience marketing that
reaches them in pubs and clubs, for example, than
older people who may have a less active social
life. The latter group may be better targeted by
stage marketing in practice
We are seeing more
examples of brands that have adopted such an
approach and have been flexing their branding and
marketing to appeal to different life stages
without sacrificing the core brand positioning.
Examples of brands that have responded to an
ageing consumer base are Nescafé, Coca-Cola and
Bacardi. In all three cases they have leveraged the
core brand into areas that are more attractive to
a younger target group. Nescafé has launched a
raft of innovative products that are more
attractive to younger consumers as well as
developing communications initiatives such as
sponsoring the Ministry of Sound.
Nescafé can use
such an approach to ensure that it appeals to an
older life stage group as well as developing
innovative new products that are more likely to
attract younger coffee drinkers. This reflects the
fact that the image of coffee and the way in which
coffee is consumed varies across life stages. For
younger people, coffee may compete primarily with
soft drinks while older people are choosing
between coffee and tea.
In 2002, Coca-Cola
launched a 4oz slim-line can for sale in the
nightclubs and leading fashion retailers of
Manhattan. While this was basically the same
product as brand Coca-Cola, the style of packaging
and the graphical approach, with only a subtle
reference to the Coca-Cola brand it is clearly
intended to reach a younger audience that has been
looking for newer, more fashionable beverages.
Coca-Cola has also developed communications ideas
that are more appropriate to the younger
target one group of consumers through its core
Bacardi brand and reach a different, younger
market, through brand extensions such as Bacardi
Breezer. Bacardi, the brand, will often be
consumed with a mixer such as Coca-Cola. The
“premix” Bacardi Breezer is more fashionable
and popular with younger people and may frequently
be consumed from the bottle. Bacardi Breezer is
not just a beverage but a badge.
Changes in the
demographic structure of the population have an
immense influence on the success and failure of
different products and services but often their
relevance is not fully understood or acted upon.
On their own, changes in a country’s or
brand’s demographic structure are relatively
easy to forecast. However, the demographics issue
is more complex with the size of different
demographic groups changing constantly.
Consequently, there may be something to be gained
from treating demographics differently when
considering a brand’s target group and
developing brand positioning.
One way is to take
the brand beyond demographics to consider a
broader picture of consumer issues at certain
points in their lives. Marketing by life stage
enables the product or service offer to be
appropriate to consumers’ needs and desires at a
particular stage in their lives.
your brand target a defined demographic or
your brand at risk from demographic shifts?
can your brand remain relevant to a set of
consumers as they grow older?
there ways in which the brand can be made
relevant to two or more quite separate target
can you make the best use of different media
channels to provide appropriate communications
to different life stages?