Archive for the ‘demographics’ tag

your mom is the target audience

One of the tough parts of a job where your task is to “know people” — meaning have some level of expertise in what they think, feel, care about, are motivated by, etc. — is that actual, real-life people defy generalization. Thinking about groups of people based on interests or demographics almost always misses the nuances of individual taste, circumstance, personality, and so on.

Case in point, the LA Times attributes rising NFL ratings to the popularity of fantasy football, using an atypical example to prove the scope of its effect:

When they first gathered three years ago, the group of women in their 30s and 40s was so green that one member asked if “fantasy” meant picking the hottest NFL players. Now they’re a bunch of obsessives who, in building and competing with their pseudo-teams using real players and figures, pore over yardage stats and go by huddle-tough nicknames like the Grinder. And they watch each game like it’s wanted for murder.

“In fantasy football every game counts,” said Kierstan Cleary, a pharmaceutical sales representative and mother of two young sons who described herself as at most a casual fan before joining the Hail Marys. Her viewing of games on TV during that time, she estimates, has tripled to about 30 per season.

Broadening the audience will be great for the sport, no doubt. And good for these women that they didn’t succumb to the conventional wisdom that says fantasy football is only for aging male jocks.

But what this demonstrates more than anything, I’d say, is that we live in an age where anything can be for everyone. Old lines are constantly being broken down. If we focus on making something great — a product, a story, a service, whatever it is — instead of pleasing a very narrow group of easy targets, there’s a vastly larger opportunity for success. Did ESPN or Yahoo Sports think that by building an easy-to-use fantasy sports application that they’d be pulling in suburban moms? Doubtful. But the casual gaming and participatory viewing aspects are so addictively fun, they did anyway. Quality propagates itself.

Look at a film like Scott Pilgrim. A very fun movie that I personally loved, but marketed a little too heavily to the comic-and-video-game crowd it references so heavily. That movie underwhelmed at the box office. However, I’d venture that because it really is a terrific accomplishment in filmmaking, it will be discovered by a lot of people on home video and end up as a film with staying power. When I went to a Best Buy to pick up a copy as a gift, it was sold out.

Then look at Inception, a cerebral, complicated film that certainly doesn’t scream lowest common denominator. But by crafting those elements into a solid action heist thriller, it pulled in enormous audiences — something no studio would have believed to be true and green lit, were it not for the clout of Christopher Nolan post-Batman.

Think of these movies, or the Old Spice Guy, or Lost, or Harry Potter books, and imagine: would they have existed if the powers that be settled for the assumption that, “this isn’t for everyone” meant it wasn’t worth doing? Or are they cases that suggest if we focus on quality, the people will come?

I’d like to believe that when we think in terms of target audiences and market research, we’re only taking the bland average of a small sample of a whole broad array of really interesting, individual human beings. The safe road is to appeal to the middle, or laser-target the easily identifiable edges. But in reality, all people are basically open to the new, different, challenging, and quirky a lot more than we think. In fact they crave it. We just have to trust them to know good when they see it, and trust ourselves to make good things worth finding, and get out of the way.

Posted: December 20th, 2010
at 2:06pm by briancollapsing

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Categories: thoughts

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millennials define, embarrass themselves

so now there’s a thing called millennials magazine, a blog with a mission statement to, in their words, “help us define ourselves.” a sort of “by us, for us” cyber-publication — if “us” is hopeful internet writers, it would seem. i read a few of their pieces and they did not convince me to read more.

of course, they’re young, and still getting their heads around things like clauses and the difference between essays and journal entries. nothing unforgivable — i’m sure anything i wrote at 22 was equally worth reading, in that it probably wasn’t.

being right on the cusp at the oldest end of the millennial span (or lowest of gen x, depending on which cutoff you go by), it’s hard to say which set of generational values i share more, and it’s with much amusement that i read investigative pieces on either age range and the unique challenges they think they face. but this new outlet is most interesting in that it exists at all.

it seems that no generation has been so fully defined and sold to marketers as a packaged idea than this one, who then in turn sell the idea of millennial-ness back to its constituents, who are apparently more than happy to accept it as a label for their special take on the world — as long as their special-ness is widely agreed upon.

was there a boomer magazine in the 60’s/70’s? a gen x one in the 80’s/90’s? these were terms applied from outside, not worn as badges, right? people were busier being interested in things like rock music (or civil rights) and defining themselves by those interests, not sitting down to brainstorm what it means to be part of a demographic.

that’s what’s so odd about this project, as well-intentioned as it may be. i’m sure it might help a few young writers practice, get better, get some attention, maybe get a writing gig at some point. but the surreal part is that this super-savvy generation is so fluent in the language of marketing, they’re self-applying it and even trying to help it along themselves as a project in self-discovery. they see the wild rush of everyone a few years older to ‘understand the millennials’, that they figure there must actually be a big truth there to uncover, and “by golly, shouldn’t we be the ones to solve the puzzle ourselves?”

but come now, we all know there’s no answer there. there’s not a code to crack or a consensus to be reached, just a bunch of young people trying to figure out how to be happy, just like anyone of any age. doing marketers’ job for them by ‘defining your generation’ comes off more as attention-baiting for media types than serious reflection. but hey, maybe that’s a sign that they really do have it all figured out, and are just playing the older crowd as saps?

Posted: September 27th, 2010
at 11:31pm by briancollapsing

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Categories: thoughts

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