Next year marks the 30-year anniversary of me leaving secondary school (much to the relief of my form tutor, Sister Anne), and I’ve been reflecting on the many characters within my year group.
The St Thomas More class of ’91 spawned bio-chemists, priests, stay-at-home parents, teachers, mechanics, retail workers, entrepreneurs, warehouse workers, fitness coaches, accountants, builders, authors, labourers, electricians, marketers, doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives – and unfortunately some who never quite found the work or life they’d maybe hoped to.
Observing the friends I’ve stayed in touch with on Facebook, it’s hard to imagine having all these people in the same room now given their adult differences – even though we all grew up in the same town, at the same time.
So why is marketing so fixated on, and driven by, demographic or geographic traits, like gender, age or location – or worse, vague socio-economic groups like “Millennials” (which really just means any human aged between 25 and 40) – when it would be almost impossible to find a message that consistently resonated on social media within my little school year group – let alone an audience of tens or hundreds of thousands of people who haven’t got Sister Anne in common.
As we navigate the next few months, we need to reset our previous marketing approaches (which, if we’re honest, weren’t working particularly well even before covid-19) and see things how they are, not how we desperately want them to be.
And it’s clear we are now firmly in the era of personalisation.
The 90s ushered in the era of choice, with unprecedented innovation and growth across the board – from grab-and-go to premium casual. Giant steps in technology enabled brands to build an online presence that fostered digital engagement and the growth of the voucher economy through the first decade of 2000. And the adoption of social, particularly Instagram, in the 2010s, created the era of the “experience economy”. Consumers didn’t just want food and drink – they wanted it with bells on.
But now the oldest Millennials are turning 40, and Generation Z is setting the agenda. And while Generation Z still wants to eat and drink – like everything else in their lives – they want to do it entirely on their own terms.
So when you consider Generation Z now accounts for 40% of all customers – not including the older groups they influence or are part of – we’re dealing with one of the most powerful consumer forces in the market today. One that no hospitality brand can afford to ignore.
And this has created an obvious new reality – brands that don’t know or understand their customers in intimate detail, will lose them to brands who do.
While there will always be a place for commonality in such things as age, gender and geography, the smart marketer should be transcending those limiting segments and using the data within their businesses to identify and understand the behavioural and psychographic traits of their most valuable customers – and using these insights to drive their acquisition, conversion and retention strategies – which will, in turn, massively increase the value of marketing and its contribution to the top and bottom lines.
So, with capacity, confidence and trading hours at the lowest levels in a generation, and the long slog of recovery ahead, do you know who your most valuable customers really are – and how to get enough of them through your door and on your websites to guarantee your recovery?