Culture and Commerce

Know your audience. It’s an old adage but how often do most advertisers give it the attention that it is due? It’s easy to rely on long held assumptions about the populations that we are marketing to. Now, we might ultimately be heading towards a sort of global homogeneity. Communication technology is mushrooming, and international travel is becoming commonplace. As people groups interact and cross pollinate a new sameness may be emerging but this bumping together of cultures also has the potential to reveal and even heighten differences. So, until such time as we can’t tell ourselves apart from each other it makes sense be aware of how different groups respond to different sorts of messages and how those messages are delivered.

Various demographics represented within even within an apparently similar collection of people. For example, within a particular ethnic community and even within a single family you can find differences in language, gender, and age.

We’re waist deep in data these days so it’s lazy and foolish to make assumptions about a particular group and even the product that we’re selling. The demand for products that originated within a specific ethnic group often moves outside of that group. For example, young white men account for 80% of the demand for hip-hop music. Cultural preferences can both be passively absorbed and actively chosen.

English may be the language of commerce and more widely spoken than ever but expressions familiar to native English speakers don’t always translate well. Coors’ slogan “Turn it loose” may encourage the average North American to kick back and relax with a beer but what it says to many a Spaniard is “Get diarrhea.”

Even if your message is clearly understood, how it is delivered can impact its effectiveness. Messages can be explicit or implicit. They can be strictly informational or wrapped in a story. They can focus on price or brand.

Though gender expression is becoming more fluid and some products more unisexual in their appeal gender difference remains an important consideration, whether those differences mostly spring from biology or are culturally driven.As a marketer you may have to choose between broad appeal and effectiveness.

If you do want to target one gender over another, you’ll want to fashion your message accordingly. Women will readily relate to strong women in fun situations. Men are more drawn to action oriented and competitive scenarios. Humour can be effective in reaching both sexes but broader humour and slapstick will appeal more to men.These are only trends. Gather reliable data on your audience to avoid stereotypes. For example, women actually don’t tend to make frivolous purchases. They are usually very price sensitive. They absorb more information but are harder to convince. Men are typically more brand conscious and more likely to pay full price for those brands.

Advertisers should also be aware of generational differences. Boomers have big buying power, tend to be brand loyal, and are easier to upsell to. They’ve done their time, made their mark and are more apt to reward themselves with luxury items. Generation Xers respond favorably to do-good branding, tied into charity. They are time crunched and pulled in various directions. They respond to lifestyle marketing, conveniences that will ease day to day burdens. Millennials are on the lookout for the next big thing. They tend to be idealistic and heavily peer influenced, sensitive to consumer product reviews. Electronic communication is now ubiquitous but generational differences are seen in the method of delivery. The shift in use of email to text and to instant messaging roughly parallels the shift from older to younger.

Of course, ethnicity, gender, and age are but a few of the characteristics of the people you are trying to reach. Whether you have a niche product or one with more universal appeal getting familiar with your market audience and its unique profile is essential to making positive and profitable connections.

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