Today’s consumers defy simple categorization, says marketing professor and consultant Michael R. Solomon, and marketers vested in binary thinking won’t appeal to them. Brands must undergo a mind-set shift and recognize the postmodern collapse of most of the rigid labels of the past; for example, they must recognize that, today, gender is fluid; perceived age eclipses real age; and the division between sellers and buyers is disappearing. Solomon guides marketers toward a more sophisticated, actionable understanding of identity construction and consumer behaviors in an increasingly complex world.
Marketing categories are expanding beyond traditional demographic labels.
Today’s consumers defy traditional labels and marketing categorization. Consider “Sofía”: This Hispanic consumer works for a bank and chooses conservative business dress in the workplace, but dons club attire from Urban Outfitters when out for the evening. Sofía is bisexual, prefers the gender-neutral pronoun “ze,” and, as a Catholic, is pro-life. Ze lives in a Manhattan loft, cooks vegan food, loves Shakira and the jam band Phish, volunteers with Greenpeace and shops for food at Walmart. Consumers like Sofía, who do not fit neatly into any lifestyle market segment, are the “new chameleons.”
Consumers don’t demonstrate loyalty to the market segments you might erroneously try to group them in. As big data gains sophistication, companies increasingly target “markets of one,” using technology to anticipate what a specific individual might buy next.
Traditional views of customer differentiation can fuel stereotypes.
Marketers traditionally categorize customers via demographic differences such as age, gender and race. But relying on these familiar market segments...