Global Monoculture

By me and Rachel Kirkpatrick Boucher

With the rise of global monoculture, marketers are rethinking demographic segmentation.

The walls between generations are coming down

Demographic segmentation has steered marketing strategy for decades, but with the rise of global mega brands that cater to all generations, and the “global brain” created by the internet, marketers are thinking more about how their campaigns and events appeal to lifestyles more so than stereotypes based on age groups.

Take Apple, Amazon, Netflix and IKEA. These four mega brands have products and services that cater to and have been adopted by multiple generations. In fact, Netflix VP of Product Innovation Todd Yellin described to Wired how age and gender data is “almost useless” to the brand today. Instead, the brand embraces a “global algorithm” to serve up content.

Forrester research in its Empowered Customer Segmentation study last year moved away from demographic segments and toward grouping consumers “according to how they respond to new products and technology”—behavioral and attitude segmentation rather than demographics segmentation. “There’s a type of behavior and attitude that isn’t just a function of age or even a life-stage,” Anjali Lai, an analyst at Forrester, said in the report.

There’s another side to the shift toward monoculture with the collapse of social norms. For example, consumers are no longer getting married in their 20s. They’re becoming first-time parents in their 40s. Women’s roles have transitioned both in the home and the workplace. In fact, what we think we know about the upcoming economic supporters in generations like Gen Z may be skewed, too. (They’re more conservative than millennials. Who would have thought.)

Consumers are living longer and staying productive, too, something The Age of No Retirement community is embracing with its idea-sharing annual festival. The Age of No Retirement, Flamingo and Tapestry Research collaborated on a survey of 2,000 people, ages 18 to 70-plus, which revealed “86% of people across all ages believe inter-generational design principles are important, yet only 16% believe brands are currently applying them well.”

And then there’s the explosion of personalization and consumer “choice” among products and services, and the risk-free experimentation that comes with digital offerings, meaning more people can consume according to their own tastes, sensibilities and aspirations.

They’ll expect that sort of progressive approach in their live experiences with brands, too.

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Brent is a member of the executive team for Opus Agency, partner to world-shaping brands.
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