Disrupt Your Strategy – Planning for Audiences not Generations

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I have never been a fan of demographic profiling. Sure, this information, at scale, can reveal certain things about a population – and this can be useful to understand whether there might be a connection between our age and (for example) our propensity to over-eat. Or contract disease. Or buy new cars every four years.

But populations don’t interest me. They feel like a dead weight around my sense of, and interest in, humanity. Instead, I prefer audiences – which is perhaps why I studied theatre rather than statistics.

It’s also why I am continually fascinated by digital technology and transformation – and it is why social media continues to attract the attention of people, corporations and governments. For digital transformation is not just about bringing the non-digital world online – it’s challenging the very nature of what we consider “our selves” to be.

As marketers, we are constantly drawn to the idea of demographics – the cashed up profiling of the Baby Boomers, the anxious, try-harder Gen X-ers and the slacker Gen Ys. But like any generalisation, these labels are easily unpicked. There are plenty of Baby Boomers who are slackers and plenty of cashed up, power wielding Gen X-ers. And Gen Y are just starting to flex their creative, financial and intellectual powers – and there is more goodness to come. Rather than simply relying on this style of profiling, we should be working harder to understand these audiences. We need to map their behaviours, attitudes and interests, not just their age, sex and location.

This is why I quite like the work that marketing automation firm, Marketo, has done on Generation Z. And while, yes, they have started out with the age-focused label, the research carried out by agency, Sparks and Honey, reveals the patterns of behaviour, interests, attitudes and insights that can help build a deeper understanding of this audience. While the data reflects a US-based audience, there are cultural parallels that are useful indicators such as:

  • Do-Gooders – an interest in making a difference in the world
  • Shift FROM Facebook – Facebook lost its allure when the parents arrived. Gen Z are embracing newer platforms like snapchat, secret and whisper
  • Creation trumps sharing – Gen Z embrace the prosumer ethic of digital media creativity.

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But to really understand this “Gen Z” audience, I would go further. I wouldn’t stop at the age of 19. I would ask:

  • Why would my brand be relevant to audiences exhibiting these behaviours
  • Why would these audiences choose to purchase my product/service/thing
  • Which values embodied by my brand augments the life, behaviour, experience or purpose of this audience
  • How do these behavioural profiles help me understand my customers regardless of age / demographics

And when it comes to planning, insight and future proofing your brand, I’d look to opportunities to self-disrupt your strategy. Ditch the path of lazy profiling, put the work in to really understand your audiences, and then invite them into the process of creating a brand that has a purpose. Start by delving into the data behind the Sparks and Honey research (below) – and then work on your own business by starting with the audiences you rely upon.

Logos and the Psychology of Colour

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In the process of building new brands, there are three steps that I love:

  1. Naming: The naming of your new brand can be fraught – but should be fun. Coming up with a name that is descriptive enough for your customers but imaginative enough to draw them in can take far longer than you can imagine. Then once you have a name, securing and registering it can take time and more than a little money. There are some agencies dedicated to naming, and if you have a big budget it would be fabulous to work with them … but if you’re running a startup, chances are you’ll be doing the naming over a few beers with your mates. Be sure to think through the various combinations of the name and how it will be used. After all, you don’t want to follow the example of promo pen company Pen Island.
  2. Planning: No surprise here – but I get quite a kick out of the planning process. From building out the communications architecture through to building out the business case, planning is an important step for any startup. You’ll be amazed what you can learn in a couple of days – and the research and analysis (not to mention the discipline) will hold you in good stead as you start to seek funding and build your core team.
  3. Visual design: Most people think that branding is about logos. A logo is just part of the branding process … but it does need to be given time and attention. And budget always helps. Even if you have budget, it still helps greatly to provide a solid brief to your designer – which is where your planning will help. Make sure you share your research and thinking – explain the various use cases and audiences that your new business will impact. Provide a list of “attributes” that describe your brand. Be clear about the vision you have for the future of your brand. All this information should soak into the appearance of your logo and the visual design of your band.

Now that you have a name, some understanding of the potential of your business and some ideas for your logo, take that list of attributes and find them in the list in this infographic from MuseDesign. Pay special attention to other logos that you see and that you admire. Think about how they are using colour to engage you emotionally. What can you learn from great logos? Which designs make your heart jump?

After all, if you want your brand to be memorable, you’ll need all the branding help you can get.

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