Not Just a Demographic Dude

Cute – But Limited Labels –  The simple truth about the youth market.

Marketers tend to lump the “18-24s” or (heaven forbid) the “15-24s” into one youth basket – the reality is that this demographic can be cut, slashed, divvied-up and defined by the life stages of young people as they trace their intellectual, physical, emotional and social development.

We have endured a parade of labels which have been artfully created.

X Generation, Y generation, Baby Busters, Boomers. hybrids between Generations X and Y, Slackers, Flyers, 13thGen, Grungers, Cocoes, Xoomers  etc. etc. These marketing “designer labels” actually inhibit our obtaining much in the way of an in-depth understanding of “youth markets”.

Youth markets defined in these colourful terms have proven to be of limited value.

In itself the concept of the ‘Youth Market’ is without much definition.

Erroneous demographic and hollow, segment “labels” and stereotypes have predominated  It is foolhardy to generalise about any market and  perhaps in particular  a rapidly changing Youth Market.

As one of my students explained to me “ I ain’t just a demographic dude”.  I presume he meant that his personal profile extended beyond generalisations and simplifications suggested by the media.

Most observers are quick to point out how fast youth markets change – yet the labels linger.

The labels linked to today’s young adults have sought to describe the market. Most simply focus on the size and/or age factor (even gender might give a little more insight – but not much).

Labels that seek to simplify a particular market by trying to capture its one or a few dominant elements create false profiles.

Labels based on simplistic (demographic and psychographic) definitions are flawed for two reasons:

Hip terms become obsolete. As with any generation, consumer attitudes, language, and lifestyle needs are constantly evolving..

Diversity. Today’s young adults are not certainly not a single homogenous group.  They represent perhaps the most heterogeneous generation ever.

To assume that todays Youth Market is homogenous is to accept the generalization that we Baby Boomers all camped out at Woodstock listening to Hendrix and we all smoked pot.  (well it does apply to some of us I guess J)

A Label Boycott?

Am I suggesting a label boycott?


Aside from their entertainment value, labels foster an economy of words by tapping an implicit understanding when used correctly – but they need to be varied (more than a few labels to describe such a diverse group) and based on in depth profiling (not just a few cute concepts).

However Since successful marketing needs to focuses on a personal level, profile refinement is crucial.

How Useful are Demographics as Descriptors of Youth Markets?

Almost all consumer product marketing plans use a market segmentation strategy featuring demographics.

These demographic inspired profiles are supposed to provide us with some useful basis for segmentation and the attendant depth of understanding we need as serious, professional marketers.

But do they?

How similar (even in generalist terms) is a 16-year-high school student with no part time job to a 28 year-old mother of two with a part time job and a mortgage?    Yet the folks at places like Channel 10 would have us think they are part of the same viewing audience.

Perhaps there is viewing research to back this up  but as we know, research also suggests thousands of people watched Channel 7 show a blank screen for half an hour about a month ago.

Sophisticated marketers recognise the weaknesses associated with segmenting purely or even principally on the basis of demographics.  Attitudes and behaviours are in fact rarely demographically driven.  Not all “youths” are health conscious, not all are detached.  Although they may be so sometimes and not at other times

With our rapidly changing and evolving society, barraged by one paradigm shift after another, it is foolhardy to set any market segment in stone. This fact rings doubly true for today’s young adults and the segments contained therein.


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