The entire contemporary consumption market was molded from the idea that comprehending target-public behaviour is a basic premise (and one of the greatest challenges) to thinking the strategy of any brand. Following this logic, until some time ago, demographic data – gender, age and social class – were “sufficient” criteria for that.
The default expectation of a research briefing was always the mapping of an objective portrait: are we dealing with men or women? Children or adults? Teens or elderly? A, B or C classes? What do they love and believe?
Brands and institutions base their decisions in a set of profiles, then try to take position in order to best communicate with them. By doing this, they guide consumption, and establish generalized market shares: the bigger the number of people in the target-public, the more effective product communication is. After all, the capitalist way of thinking dictates: bigger scope, bigger possibilities of sale.
What happens, though, when demographic boundaries are not enough to classify a customer profile anymore? How to predict the behaviour of an increasingly fluid generation? How to establish identity patterns of people who valor, above all, authenticity?
Methodology changed, and norm died
Many times society is interpreted by stereotypes based on an hierarchy of differences. Everything that is normal, that fits in patterns of the staggering common sense, tends to be on the top of this illusory hierarchy. These are biases hidden deeply in the collective subconscious, and they get stronger with market persistence in going back to clichés.
The construction of this hierarchy is beyond absurd, it is a political disservice.
As if in automatic pilot, all brands try to connect with lifestyles in general, thus ignoring the “different”, and further feeding a mentality that reinforces stereotypes. Caged in categories that don’t anticipate nor represent behaviours, some people are favoured, while others disappear.
In order for a research methodology to succeed, it needs to see beyond the hierarchy of “normal”. Norm is dead, so classification by gender, age or income makes no sense anymore.
In a time when majorities are well represented, making what is outside the norm valuable implies all identities have a place to express themselves. It creates a social impact that reduces prejudice, and empower voices hardly ever heard. It creates the notion that, whatever it is, this norm does not necessarily operate as aspirational to everyone.
More than ever, talking about human beings implies talking about pulses, feelings and peculiarities. The individual journey is what represents an individual, whose character is built by the things learnt and every experience lived – and that falls far from any dry cut provided by demographic labels. There is no right or wrong in applying for university when you are 60. 🎓
Status quo still prevails, but in post-internet era there is free access to anyone pronounce how limited it can be.
Today, we question all of these dusty concepts: setting limits by the old class-gender-age tripod is not enough to explain human behaviour anymore. From now on, any innovative project must consider in its research the following 3 macro-trends:
TRANScenGENDER — death of the gender
The binomial man-woman equation is getting amplified into multiple possibilities. Everyday more and more people are getting ready to push further pre-conceived boundaries. TRANScenGENDER is a study that wants to comprehend how we are evolving from normativity to a larger array of freedom of choices.
Gender is now seen as something performative, in constant development and open to transformations and individual freedoms, amplifying the possibilities of living together with the differences.
Gender related topics are on the minds and mouths of people in general, and the discussion is not getting any colder. Markets that move trillions of dollars are paying attention to that, amplifying the discussion and directly influencing the way companies will position their products and communicate from now on.
YOUTH MODE — death of age
The velocity of changes in human behaviour renders the concept of generation confusing, making it difficult to establish rational cuts on a time line. Age stereotypes don’t represent the contemporary world: the concept of youth changed, emancipating the non-age-ranged. Human being has never lived this much. Everyone feels the need and wishes to adapt to this new ways of living, of connecting of relating. And that is not at all connected to one’s age.
More than that, today life is less linear than it was before. We live in a post-internet time, and we are all part of a generation whose natural habitat is relatively democratic and horizontal. We surf through dozens of tabs at the same time. There is room for that, and there is room for everybody. Voices are being heard as it never happened before, and they potentialize individual expression, inaugurating a new stage in the history of human evolution.
To an individual path, it makes no sense to fill in the protocol: it’s less about chronology and more about life stages.
As a consequence, traditional classification of demographic researches doesn’t allow the connection of a behaviour with a given biological age. Subjectivity is bigger than common sense, and common sense isn’t always the best sense. What’s the best moment to change professions? Or to have a kid? Or even to leave the parent’s house?
Youth Mode is the understanding that communicating with people will be only possible by means of their pulses and life moments. In the next few years, the market will comprehend that celebrating the amplification of the capacity to reach people is more interesting than complaining about the modern times.
UNCLASSED — death of classification by income
Financial parameters are not what define consumption decisions anymore, when people see themselves as protagonists of their own aspirations. Appropriating ideals from higher social classes – as it was thought to be aspirational – can go against individual preferences and limit different lifestyles.
That means the dualyst top-bottom comprehension of the pyramid alone is not enough to measure social aspirations of a population. That’s the social multiverse, hugely influenced by the universe of web information. What before was a pyramid, now is a prism.
An individual receives information, but also creates it, and then becomes a reference for creating; they influence other individuals.
Unclassed is a movement that questions a research model used to cross influence power with income or social class. The way to analyze behaviour influences and consumption do not necessarily follow the top-down flux of the social income pyramid and, because of that, the challenge now has changed: to get out of the comfort zone, to go beyond the comprehension of market segments, income range or social class; it’s time to start thinking about affinities and, most importantly, about people. The mix of references is what will mold future behaviours.