Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
As a brand marketer, I often notice how consumer packaged goods companies create narrow definitions of their markets. That is, after all, what makes for cost-effective marketing. “Define your customer!” — that’s what we’re all taught in marketing school, whether it was an academic program or the school of life. But how we define customers’ needs, wants and behaviors has fundamentally changed.
Big data is readily available to companies today, and marketers know not just who their customers are and what they buy, but also where they buy it. Marketers also may understand what their customers are thinking of buying, based on their online search behaviors. Automation allows marketers to study patterns and predict what someone might buy next.
But despite tech-driven marketing, retailers and marketers need to apply some common sense and stop thinking of consumers purely in terms of age brackets, especially when they are selling leisure products and services.
Products Transcend Generations
Now that people are living longer and indulging in lifestyles that are radically different from those of previous generations, perhaps we should stop defining market opportunities just by age, gender or location. The cannabis industry is a great example of a business that transcends generations.
Young consumers are attracted to cannabis primarily for recreational use (although recent evidence indicates that cannabis may potentially have a negative impact on the teenage brain). From my perspective, older cannabis users seem to fall into several categories:
• People who have significant health challenges, like cancer, anorexia and even Alzheimer’s.
• Older adults who may be having sleep difficulties and may use some combination of CBD and THC before bedtime.
• Those who used cannabis in their youth and are discovering a wide range of new products, ways to consume it and a unique new buying experience (one that doesn’t involve furtive deals on street corners).
Another “vice” category is the liquor industry, which continues to see growth, as well as expansion into new categories. Spiked seltzer, for example, is on track to become a $30 billion industry by 2025. In short, products that make people feel relaxed, happy, sleepy, sociable or giddy remain wildly popular across generations.
Marketers Should Consider Psychographics, Not Just Demographics
Going back to the liquor industry, I’ve noticed that the spiked seltzer market has been increasingly targeting its products primarily to younger markets. But from my perspective, older generations have also been turning to spiked seltzer, which again shows that vices span across ages and generations. Many of my friends and family (who range in age from 40s to 70s) also drink the bubbly stuff because it’s low in calories and sugar and tastes fruity. (It may even be considered my generation’s Cosmo, the fave beverage of the Sex and the City ladies.) My generation controls 70 percent of disposable income, and we spend nearly as much on booze and cannabis as younger generations.
Manufacturers, dispensaries, liquor brands and advertisers should, therefore:
• Consider investing in research to better understand who their current and future user is.
• “Peel the onion” and explore attitudes and behaviors — not just ages and genders.
• Look at their branding and packaging to ensure it really speaks to their buyer (both current and future).
• Employ salespeople at their retail locations who can relate to customers.
• Produce advertising campaigns that appeal to different market segments.
• Engage creative talent that spans ages and perspectives to make sure that messaging is on-point for specific groups and attitudes.
Cannabis and liquor are here to stay. Although people who consume them may be changing, great marketing is timeless.