7. 5. 20247. 5. 2024
Good marketing is all about the consumer. If it isn't geared toward real people, then, honestly, who is it for? Of course, while being consumer-obsessed may seem like common sense, truly understanding your consumer base — and how this audience(s) will change and evolve, is no easy feat. It requires dedication, constant research, and social listening, as well as an openness to learning about different demographics. It isn't a "one and done" approach.

Consumer engagement, and developing a deep relationship with your consumers, requires constant work. Any successful product launch or campaign meets a pain point, need, and want — with renewed relevance. In an age of wandering attention, it can be difficult to continually engage with consumers authentically and fully; however, the brands that successfully foster relationships with consumers understand that it takes time to develop — and part of this effort is determining a consumer journey and life cycle.

Jennifer Delvecchio, senior director of global brand, content, and culture at McDonald's, put it best at an ANA event, stating, "In the past, we scaled through reach. In the future, we must scale through relationships. The battle for attention is more challenging than ever before."

Below are ways to boost engagement, deepen your knowledge of your consumer, and encourage true connections.

Don't underestimate the power of all generational insights — not just the latest trends for younger people. Of course, while it's also imperative that marketers find ways to speak to gen Z, it's just as important to connect with people aged 50 and older. Neither should take more or less precedence — rather, one should prioritize the needs and wants for people at different ages and how content can be tailored to them.

For instance, members of gen Z tend to find information and connection on digital platforms like YouTube (nearly 60 percent watch it a few times a day) and generally spend "anywhere between four and eight hours a day on different social media sites," according to Loeb & Loeb. Further, Loeb & Loeb stated that "33 percent of gen Z regularly watch traditional TV."

These data points illustrate how this generation spends time personalizing what they surround themselves with more, curating information, products, and culture in search of meaning and connection. Libby O'Neill, partner at Loeb & Loeb LLP, elaborated on this fact, stating at an ANA event, "Gen Z has told us is they're looking for authentic, organic, engaged content that's personalized to them, which creates a tension because you've got a brand and you're selling things, and then you've got consumers who want something that's really personalized and authentic. Gen Z desires authentic, relatable, and organic content. It's about working with the people and what they want to see."

However, it's important not to "forget" about people once they age out of their twenties due to ageism and bias. According to the AARP, the "50 and up population makes up the fastest-growing segment of the country's population, with significant growth expected in the next 25 years due to a shift toward smaller family structures and an increase in life expectancy," according to a presentation given by the company. The AARP also noted that this age group contributes "$7 trillion in economic activity annually," while holding 62 percent of U.S. aggregate net worth" currently and, by 2050, will be responsible for 62 percent of U.S. spending.

While people over 50 may not be as tech-dependent as gen Z, they are incredibly tech savvy — and tend to prefer having both digital and physical touchpoints. The AARP noted that this group enjoys both, with digital offerings increasing 29 percent pre-pandemic.

Ultimately, ask yourself: Who are the people and/or groups my brand is trying to reach — and how can I tailor the product and/or content around the product to engage in different ways?

Don't stereotype. Leaning into stereotypes is not only lazy marketing, but it looks at people of various communities as monoliths instead of real people with complexity and nuance; instead, tell more inclusive stories, provide authentic portrayals, and change hiring and mentoring practices.

Understanding different communities with precision can be an important step toward avoiding stereotypes. For example, Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) reported that "86 percent of Latinas say Latina Moms are the primary decision makers in their households for categories including food and beverage, insurance, education and financial services" and "73 percent of U.S. born Hispanic millennials choose food and beverages that connect them to their culture."

Moreover, only 16 percent of women "believe that the media usually portrays them accurately," according to SeeHer. The organization also found that 55 percent of adults believe that women "are portrayed negatively in programming" or portrayed with stereotypes that include domestic settings (as 66 percent of women shown in ads are shown in family settings).

Heather Malenshek, SVP and CMO at Land O' Lakes, Inc, spoke at an ANA event, pointing out the geographic stereotypes that cause division, stating, "When we treat rural and urban as rivals, everyone loses. It's a narrative that we believe is harmful to the country's political and economic future."

Understand life cycle journeys more deeply across demographics. Besides better understanding consumer groups, it's important to understand life stages that happen as well — and how those journeys may present themselves. Parents are a group that go through many different stages and may make big purchases at specific times in their children's lives, such as birth, toddlerhood, teenhood, etc.

Miriam Kalaev, senior director, data monetization, strategy, and measurement at Everyday Health Group Pregnancy & Parenting, put it well, stating that "mom is the apex customer. She is the gatekeeper for nearly every family expenditure." Everyday Health Group Pregnancy & Parenting reported that U.S. moms control $2.7 trillion in economic value — and parents as a whole tend to spend over $15,000 in a baby's first year.

Meanwhile, Mark Penn, chairman at and CEO of Stagwell, noted several changes in lifestyle globally, which inevitably affects how and what people purchase. At an ANA event, Stagwell shared some of these changes, which include:

  • The unmarried population "will soon comprise over 30 percent of adults."

  • Baby boomers have "accounted for a record 22 percent of U.S. spending — with healthier finances, less need to borrow, and little worry about layoffs. Baby boomers are aided in these spending patterns by the fact that they are retiring with $77 trillion in wealth."

  • Currently, 40 percent of workers are "either fully remote or on hybrid schedules, transforming corporate software, commercial real estate, family life, and more."

  • In the U.S., 43 percent "track their health and fitness information, most on smartphone apps offered by companies that are keenly interested in the data."

  • In 2006, five percent of people in India had internet access; this number is now 52 percent.

Of course, harnessing and leveraging all this information can be a time-consuming and expensive challenge. However, AI may provide a solution, as Sophia Agustina, global brand-to-demand strategy of Cross IBM at IBM observed, noting that "AI can help identify where people are on their buying journey."

Get people involved internally and externally. Connecting consumers and employees to the brand's vision and purpose allows them to feel part of a larger community. If employees don't feel passionate or excited about the brand, neither will consumers. Communicating the brand purpose — and its aesthetic — makes a big difference with how people respond.

Alia Kemet, CMO of Shipt, stressed that it's about a balance of educating its consumer as well as giving back to the community, stating that marketers need to "make sure your brand values are clear, and ours are. We do a lot of giving back. We have opportunities for our shoppers as well to be involved in some of that and we have a lot of training content. We also meet shoppers and have events to train them."

To do this, Shipt partnered with actor and producer Issa Rae; together, they launched a mentorship program at Howard University "in which the brand invited a cohort of students to help build and launch a campaign to drive student memberships."

Create experiences people remember. Memorable experiences, whether with the product itself or at a brand activation, enable differentiation. Otherwise, consumers won't associate positive feelings with your brand (and may opt for whatever the easier or cheaper alternative is).

Shakir Moin, chief of marketing of Coca-Cola North America at The Coca-Cola Company, echoed this sentiment, stating that a "brand is a promise wrapped in an experience inside a memory. A product when it delivers with its features is a promise. And that promise, if that promise is not clear, not strong enough, not advantageous, it's not a promise, it's just a feature. The differential, at least [from] our point of view, between a brand and a product is a memory. What triggers or what transforms the product to a brand is an experience. And think of our lives and the memories that we carry; they're all anchored in an experience."

To do this, the brand recently leveraged the life-affirming feeling that sharing a meal can bring. As such, the brand partnered with chef Sohla El-Waylly to create a table from a two-ton billboard in Queens, New York; this table brought diverse communities together and fostered connection and togetherness.

Don't force a persona or fake authenticity. Unfortunately, it is impossible to be all things to all people all the time. This knowledge in itself can be freeing, as it can help a brand understand who it is trying to serve — as well as how and when. The brand, therefore, needs to figure out its own identity before trying to appeal to others.

As Gabrielle Wesley, CMO at Mars Wrigley North America, said, it's about "soul searching." Wesley shared advice at an ANA event, telling brand marketers that you need to be "obsessed with your consumer and to be authentic to your brand. Now, when I say be authentic to your brand, that requires you to do the soul searching and the work to figure out what your brand is about. Every brand has a story and starts from an origin story. Know what that is and then map a place for the future."

Find partnerships that broaden your perspective. It's impossible for brands to go at it totally alone. Therefore, forming strategic partnerships with other companies and/or influencers can enable more inclusivity and a diversity of perspectives.

Victoria Lozano, EVP of marketing at Crayola, recently discussed the integral importance of partnerships for brand engagement, stating that Crayola has been actively seeking partnerships with people to achieve what Crayola cannot on its own.

YouTube, for example, has become a huge space for Crayola, as Lozano explained, stating, "We've been a lot more active in the last few years and looking at partnerships as a way of going to market and enabling us to achieve impact that we might not be able to do on our own. As an example, within the YouTube space, about a year ago, we partnered with Five Minute Crafts, who are best in class in terms of crafting content and inspiring use of products within that space. We have a strategic partnership with them, both in terms of production as well as scaling the content."

To determine the best partnerships, it comes back to establishing a strong brand purpose and mission. Lozano stressed this fact, suggesting that brands need to ask the right questions, "What do you want to be able to accomplish? What is your metric? Is it about brand equity? Is it about usage occasions? Is it about something else? Those are hard conversations to have and especially in marketing where you're trying to grow revenue, but try to figure out how to actually measure it and how to quantify it."


Loading more ...