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The End of the 'Average American'

"Fifty years ago, the concept of John Doe, an average American in a relatively even society where vast numbers of people had similar consumer needs, was real," writes Karen Talavera at MarketingProfs. But results from the 2010 census—due to be released this summer—will show just how much that picture has changed. For marketers, the message is simple: There's no such thing as an "average American" anymore.

No racial or ethnic segment is a majority in our two most populous states—California and Texas—or in our ten largest cities.

Households headed by married couples are now a minority, down from a two-thirds majority 25 years ago.

Life expectancy is up, and elders often live with children and grandchildren.

"One-size-fits-all messaging isn't going to cut it," argues Talavera. "It will seem wildly off-base and irrelevant, especially if you attempt it in your email and social media marketing—avenues in which instantaneous feedback and listening is expected."

She has advice like this for your online, mobile and social media strategies:

Segment, segment, segment. The more you know about individual customers, the more relevant your messaging can be. Age, gender, location, household composition, marital/family status and ethnicity all matter. But don't forget about life stages like new parents, families with children and empty nesters.

Trust, but verify. As the population diversifies, customers might find themselves in multiple segments, making hard-to-predict decisions. Solicit their preferences with frequent surveys, but compare their responses to demonstrated behavior.

The Point: "Until you dig deep into your customer data—demographics, offer responses, media preferences, survey answers, and more—you may have assumptions about your customers that are entirely untrue," concludes Talavera.

Do You Really Know Your Customers? Marketing to a Rapidly Diversifying Population
by Karen Talavera

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