I've lost count of the number of articles that have come across my feed with titles like, "Reaching out to Millennials", "Understanding your target market", or "What Boomers need." Traditional marketing models are based on carving up the universe of all potential customers into age, race, gender, and income levels. If your product or service can appeal to a large enough subset of this universe with sufficient buying power, then you have a shot at being successful.
For example, Avon makes cosmetics for older women and thus is sold through relationship marketing. Buick is a car for retired people and has additional features like reminding you if you've left your turn signal on for too long. Macintosh computers are now trendy for young people as are iPhones while Blackberries were the choice of important executives until recently. Some clothing brands identify you as a member of a demographic and have prestige value for this reason.
But increasingly, some trends, products and services can't be generalized in this way. How do you market a fitness centre? While some use demographic marketing (women's only fitness, or centres for body building), many successful fitness and wellness centres don't invest in a particular demographic. They strive to create a clean, respectful, open environment with a range of services, advice, and personal trainers that appeal to all ages, goals and fitness levels. Their goal is not to target an age or income level, but people with a common attitude of "wanting to be active"; and they adjust their business and marketing plan accordingly. Their ads don't show beefcakes or nubile women in spandex. Rather they show people from a range of ages, ethnicities, and body shapes all being active but usually in less "hard core" activities such as walking, cycling, lifting lighter weights, or playing sports.
Moving to a marketing model based on "shared values" can increase profitability but requires an entirely different set of questions to ask of your marketing department:
- What are the values people associate with our brand?
- What are the values we want people to associate with our brand?
- What organizations, clubs, other products or services, or other companies can we partner with who share these values?
- How can we enhance the satisfaction and self-fulfillment of our customers when they use our product/service? (How can we help customers live out their values by buying from us?)
Marketing vectors also need to be reworked. Whereas more traditional media outlets like newspapers and broadcast media provide demographic aggregations, the internet and social media is an excellent tool for collecting together aggregations of people with shared values.
The best marketing plans for shared-value companies and products will create a resonance or identity within the consumer. The coffee shop that only buys fair-trade coffee can develop a stronger brand identity with socially conscious consumers than your average donut shop. The outdoor equipment store that donates a percentage of all sales to environmental protection shows an allegiance with the values of their customers. The bank that provides ethical investing options will likely attract a much more loyal following than institutions that compete on demographic marketed services (such as senior discounts, or first time home buyer mortgages; personally, I've never found banks competitive on demographic services in the first place).