Monday 10 September 2007

The new consumer?

Open any book on marketing and it will tell you that the consumer has changed. She won’t fit into stereotypes any more, has a mind of her own, is adapting technology, and the rest.

In other words, mother was a cardboard cut-out but the ‘significant other’ is a real human being. Or a hyper-real human being. Or is whatever inane that you heard in the party last night.

How did the ‘paradigm shift’ happen? Was the Web suddenly able to connect purchases to people and shatter stereotypes? Possibly.

Or are marketers waking up to something that direct mail people knew all along: Psychographics is nothing; demographics is nothing; list is everything.

Was there any reason to believe that consumers ceased being different and diverse and interesting and unpredictable and neatly slotted themselves into segments? Why did the segments exist? To describe neighbourhoods (for distribution) or media (for advertising) or markets overall (for planning products and fixing prices)? Which of these really confirmed to type? Niche B2B magazines maybe? Yet we thought in segments and profiles, never asking which ones we fit into?

Most probably we needed ‘something’ to think on, and the stereotype was that something, a comforting explanation not unlike primitive man’s lava demons and rain gods.

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