Wednesday, February 14

Dissecting Demographics: Verizon

Marketing demographics are wonderful things for advertisers, allowing writers and designers to tailor the messages to very specific audiences based on any number of factors: age, income, automotive preference, etc. Although we benefit from such information, every now and then I wonder if we're dissecting our audiences too thin.

For instance, Verizon released information today to inform the media about its new campaign: "To inform African-Americans about Verizon's latest bundled services, Verizon Double Freedom and Verizon Triple Freedom, the company has launched a new television and print ad campaign that focuses on personalization."

The decision to create this campaign is based on extensive market research that "African-American consumers have a long history of customizing and personalizing their environments, from music and other artistic expressions to fashion to personal living spaces and more" (whatever more means).

Personally, I had no idea that African-Americans differed so greatly from other Americans on this point. But it is starting to make sense to me, given that all other Americans are virtually identical in terms of "environments, from music and other artistic expressions to fashion to personal living spaces and more" (whatever 'more' means).

As a result, Verizon's new campaign, with the theme "Personalize Life," portrays ways in which African-Americans can customize products and services from Verizon to fit their lifestyle and their needs.

"Verizon has had a long history of providing relevant messages specifically to our African-American customers," said Jeff McFarland, director of multicultural marketing for Verizon. "This new campaign lets our customers know that they can choose the services they need to help them enrich their lives and be on the best network, known for its 99.99 percent reliability."

Oh, I thought we were talking about African-Americans and their apparent dominance over "personalizing environments, from music and other artistic expressions to fashion to personal living spaces and more" (whatever 'more' means). Today's image, by the way, is of Verizon employees closely monitoring the reliability factor of at least 99.999. I cannot be certain, but there is something missing in the context of this topic. Look closely. Any guesses?

I'm not even going to discuss the commercial, which basically shows bundled packages that would probably appeal to most consumers, regardless of ethnicity. To me, the only thing African-American in the spot, as it is described, are African-Americans.

Is it any wonder, given this new campaign, that SnapDragon Consultants, a "brand insights firm," today released (just minutes before Verizon's release) that "Asian-American youth feel excluded and misunderstood by most brands. It's made worse by the fact that they see advertisers actively wooing the African-American and Hispanic markets."

This insight is one of ten things that SnapDragon Consultants says every brand should know about Asian-American youth.

Some other insights include: Asian-American youth are secret fans of "easy listening" adult contemporary music (lite FM is a hidden passion); there's a "hero gap" among Asian-American kids, which is being filled for many by activists from other cultures like Martin Luther King, Jr.; and they are not fond of 15 minutes of seemingly benign American Idol fame for William Hung, who perpetuated the worst stereotypes about Asian people and gave non-Asians permission to indulge in two years of racial stereotyping and mocking.

All this was released in honor of the upcoming Chinese New Year and an "ongoing initiative to deliver qualitative research and high-level insights on Asian-American youth to marketers interested in reaching this influential and growing demographic."

Look, I'm not saying Verizon is wrong for an attempt at marketing to a specific audience (though the news release seemed silly to me) nor that SnapDragon Consultants is wrong for bringing attention to the plight of Asian-American youth (it bordered on questionable to me). What I think is wrong is that marketers sometimes cut too deeply into their research and deduce erroneous conclusions because they either wrap an advertising campaign that appeals to everyone in ethnicity or collect too much qualitative data that seems to lack substance.

Sure, sometimes ethnically targeted marketing is smart, but in terms of research, I've always found "lifestyle choices" are much more revealing than racial profiling. And no, I don't mean lifestyle choices such as personalizing their environments, from music and other artistic expressions to fashion to personal living spaces and more" (whatever 'more' means).

I mean things like what magazines do they read, what artists do they listen to, and where do they go on vacation. That is much more revealing than people who are "secret fans" of a specific music (which I guess means they lie about what they listen to) or people who prefer to "personalize environments," which, the last time I checked, pretty much included everyone who could afford to.



Rich on 2/16/07, 1:27 PM said...

Famous Studies:

Burrell Communications Group, a leading multicultural marketing communications agency released findings from a recent Black History Month study that reveals current perceptions,
connections and the impact of Black History Month within the African-American community.

At least 79% of each group agreed that it was very important for future generations to understand the historical struggles of African-Americans.

Most importantly, the study reveals new insights into the younger African-American consumer market. Although the legacy messages of honoring and acknowledging the past remains significant to younger audiences, it does
not resound as strongly as with their parents' and grandparents' generations.

Younger generations have a different perspective: in dealing with racism and oppression, they believe issues are now more covert and subtle. As a result, they have a stronger focus on financial empowerment, battling crime and educational advancement. They want Black History Month to represent and highlight the accomplishments of
modern day African-Americans and current issues facing this new generation.

Now, THAT is worthwhile demographic study. — Rich

Rich on 2/16/07, 1:33 PM said...

Famous Last Words:

"We are shooting three or four Hispanic commercials next week that will be on the air in the next three to four weeks." — Jeff McFarland to MediaPost's Marketing Daily.

Separately, Verizon also announced the availability of Lunar New Year eCards on its Verizon Chinese and Korean microsites.


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