Marketing with Demographics - dummies

By Alexander Hiam

Demographics — statistics about a population — are kind of boring to most people. Yet trends in the ethnic makeup of your market, its average age, its spending power, and its family structure provide you with good clues as to how your marketing ought to change.

Aside from major new technologies, demographic trends are the biggest source of opportunities for businesses, yet they’re not regular reading for marketers or managers. Here are some opportunity-laden demographic shifts or trends concerning women in the United States (by way of illustration, but you can find more trends by doing your own research):

  • The pay gap between men and women is closing, and women in their 20s are making 93 percent of the income of men of the same age. Still a gap but far smaller than in previous decades, which suggests growing purchasing power for women and an opportunity to reorient marketing toward them in financial services, realty, travel, continuing education, and many other markets.

  • More women than men are going to college, and the trend is growing over time. Add this to a slower trend toward pay parity, and the suggestion is that women will outpace men as the educated and leading gender at some point in the not-too-distant future.

    Headhunter firms, makers of power suits, and just about everybody else, are you aware of and ready for this shift in gender roles? (Source: a free-on-the-web chart from a Forbes.com article, which shows the trends in enrollment for men and women over several decades.)

  • In the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, 70.4 million women voted, compared to 60.7 million men (Source: the Center for American Women and Politics [CAWP], which posts such data freely on their website).

    The pattern emerged again in 2012 gubernatorial races, with women outvoting men by between 3 and 11 percentage points, depending on the particular race (also sourced for free from CAWP in a November 9, 2012, press release).

    Women outvote men, and they’re also more likely to be socially liberal, which is producing (especially among younger voters) a big advantage for the Democratic Party, reinforced by the advantage it has with most minority voting blocks.

    But beyond politics, the voting power of women supports a general trend toward more active social and economic involvement and the likelihood that an emerging female social leadership trend is beginning that will have wide-reaching impacts on how people live, work, and shop.

  • Women are having their first child (if they choose to have children) later than they used to, the mean age being 25.1 years. Record numbers are waiting to have children until their 30s or 40s. Also, births are declining slowly from year to year.

    These statistics are consistent with women going to college and pursuing professional careers at record rates. This tells you that you’re better off introducing products for professional women than new mothers if you want to enjoy a growth market. (Source: “The Changing Demographic Profile of the United States,” freely posted on the web by Congressional Research Service and a rich source of insight into dozens of interesting trends, from population growth to immigration to longevity.)

The trends here are highlighted in one area, women in the United States, by way of example, but your demographic research should zoom in on a topic of your own choice. (For example, the U.S. Census Bureau projects a rapid increase in Hispanic Americans to 30 percent of the population by 2050, one of the hottest demographic trends.)

Pick a growing group you think you may be able to tailor your offerings and message to. Back out of shrinking categories and regions. Go where the growth is, and you’ll ride the tide to demographic success.

For example, start a professional club or association for women in a growing urban or regional market in the United States, and you’re guaranteed a fast-growing market for your services, which makes everything else about your marketing a lot easier!