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Ep. 3: Yesterday’s customers are not today’s customers

A couple of weeks ago, Jonathan I and I packed up Luna and our dog Mora, and went to the park. It was a Wednesday – a day that Jonathan tends to have off. And generally, when he has a day off, I like to take the day off so we can have a family day.

So we’re in the park and we’re at the playground, and we see a mom and her son getting settled in. She’s sitting on the bench, and he’s playing on the ground in front of her.

Luna loves kids – and anytime she sees one she waves, or she’ll go up to them and try to interact with them in some way. She loves to be in the mix. On this morning, Luna walks up with her little soccer ball to the boy who is about her age – not yet two at this point.

The little boy has no interest in Luna at all. He’s focusing intently on his trucks. “He’s really shy” his mom explains to me. Then she starts speaking to him in a language other than English. I’m not sure what language it was – but I did recognize, she was speaking to him in that stern, hushed, mom tone, trying to get him to acknowledge Luna’s presence.

At some point, she and I exchange additional pleasantries in English, and then I tell Luna, in Spanish, “vamos a buscar Papa y Mora” – which means “let’s go find Daddy and Mora.”

How your customers are changing

As I thought about that whole encounter later, I realized I was experiencing in real life, the data points that I read about online. The U.S., where our family now lives, is increasingly becoming more diverse. Here are a few of those statistics in case you’re not aware:

  • Gen Z, people born between 1997 and 2012, is now 25% of the population, and 48% diverse
  • Gen Alpha, that’s the generation that Luna and this boy at the playground belong to – the generation after Gen Z, is trending to be even more diverse than Gen Z
  • More than 67 million, or roughly 22% of the population speaks a language other than English in the home – that’s more than double what it was in 1980
  • According to the 2020 Census – the percentage of the population identifying as “White only” dropped to 57.8% – marking the first time its been below 60% since 1790, when the US Census began

As I started thinking about this more, I realized that I’ve been seeing this data come to life in various ways.

My niece is in the 9th grade and plays on the basketball team. Half of the girls on her team are mixed race. And when I look at the girls on the other teams she plays against, its a similar story. I went to the same high school years ago, and played against the same schools – and the demographics of students is vastly different.

The makeup of the people your business serves is changing. We are no longer at a place where we are looking years into the future to realize the impact of these shifts in the population. Decisions are being made now, and not just by this younger generation. Their parents are making decisions with them in mind right now.

When I think about Luna, a mixed-race, mixed culture (she has citizenship in both Argentina, and in the U.S.), and bi-lingual child – as her mom, I make decisions all the time with the uniqueness of Luna in mind:

  • When I buy books, I often seek out books that are in Spanish, or bilingual
  • We have the PinkFong en Espanol channel on YouTube on lock in our home. So instead of her watching Baby Shark, she watches Tiburon Bebe
  • When we were looking for a house in preparation for relocating from Buenos Aires to the Tampa area, we intentionally looked for diverse neighborhoods
  • When I look for doctors for her, I try to seek out a woman of color

And with these changing demographics come other changes for you from a brand perspective. After all, demographics don’t make buying decisions. Lived experiences do. Real needs and challenges do. Connections, and a sense of belonging do.

How your brand can better serve an evolving customer base

So how do you translate these changes into your marketing to better reflect real life experiences and challenges of the people you serve?

Start by rethinking who your customer is.

When we think about our customer, it is very common to default to the most privileged identities in mind. 

So if a brand has a product that serves women, very often it feels like that buyer person or customer avatar is a white woman – based upon how the marketing is executed. But this is limiting in that if all your imagery, and references speak to a White woman, others who aren’t that will have a harder time feeling like they belong with you.

So what I like to have my clients do – is go through an exercise where they think about all the different types of people who have the problem their business solves, and list out the ways in which their customers can be different from a demographic standpoint.

So if you serve “busy working moms” – think of the ways in which she could be different:

  • This mom could be different by race – should could be Black or Asian, or Latina
  • She could be 45, or she could be 25. 
  • She could be a cis-gendered straight woman, or she could be a lesbian
  • She could have some form of physical disability
  • She could be Christian, Jewish, or Muslim
  • She could be married or single
  • She could be a size 4 or a size 24

There are a number of ways the women in this target group could be different.

Thus by going through an exercise and acknowledging all the multitude of ways the people you could be serve could be present – you set yourself up to design (or reimagine) your products, services, and experiences in a way throughout your marketing mix – that works for the various identities of the women you’ve chosen to serve.

With this in mind it can completely change the way you show up.

David’s Bridal does a good job of having a pulse of the various ways in which the people they serve could be different.

On their website, their mission statement says ”from Friday nights out to once-in-a-lifetime weddings, quinceaneras to anniversary dinners, we exist for magical moments.”

Even the language they’ve used here about why they exist, acknowledges that they serve customers who are part of the Latino community – as quinceaneras – are big celebrations for when girls in this community turn 15. That little line is a simple nod to people who are part of this community that David’s Bridal sees them, gets them, and wants them to feel like they belong.

In addition, if you were to look at the photography, and the various story lines of actual customers they feature – you’ll see a wide variety of different types of people who they serve.

You’ll see Black couples, White couples, same-sex couples, mixed race couples, older couples, younger couples, couples in wheelchairs, couples of varying sizes. A broad number of people can see themselves reflected in the visual imagery – and in the copy David’s Bridal puts out.

They recognize there is a broad diversity in the different types of people who have the problem that they solve, and they wanted to make sure that they make all those folks feel like they belong.

And the result of their intentional efforts of including more people? 1 in 3 brides in the U.S. gets their wedding dress from David’s Bridal. I am one of them (fun fact, I bought 3 of my four wedding dresses from them. But that’s a story for another day).

Your customers are evolving. Your brand should evolve with them

Bottom line.

There are a lot of ways in which the people you serve could be different. Don’t limit the amount of people your business serves by being too narrow in your view of who your customers could be. And don’t leave these consumers hanging when it comes to getting their problem solved.

Be intentional about being more inclusive when defining who your ideal customer is. Everyone wins when you do.

I do want to circle back to one thing. When you start being more inclusive of more identities in your marketing, data shows that those who are part of privileged groups don’t even notice – so worrying about pushing them away as you’re including others shouldn’t cause concern.

Michael Smith, is the Chief Marketing Officer at NPR. But he used to be the senior vice-president and general manager at Scripps Network, which includes channels like HGTV, The Food Network, and Travel Channel – where he explained a phenomenon they were seeing:

According to research we have seen over the years, if you make something with an all-White cast, a White audience won’t notice it. But a minority audience will notice it..And if you make something that has a significant presence of minority characters or a minority host, White audiences don’t notice that either. White Americans are just not as conscious of the ethnicity. But audience members of color will really feel good about it. 

Lets take the opportunity to make more people feel good. And grow our businesses in the process.

That’s it for this episode. 

If you’d like more information on how to get started building your inclusive brand that wins the attention, adoration, and loyalty of more consumers — grab my Inclusive Marketing Starter Kit.

And if you liked this episode, I would so appreciate it if you would share it with a friend, and even rate and review it in your podcast app of choice. It’ll help get the word out so others can get going delivering inclusive experiences.

Until next time, remember: everyone deserves to have a place where they belong. Let’s use our individual and collective power to make sure more people feel like they do.

Somebody’s waiting on you.

Thanks for listening.

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