If you took aim with a shotgun at a bulls-eye shooting target 30 metres away, steadied your breathe and fired, you would never get every ‘ball shot’ to hit the bulls-eye. Many of the ‘ball shot’ would stray off their mark and fail to make any significant impact on the target. Is this starting to sound like you last mass media advertising campaign?

The shotgun analogy is commonly used to demonstrate the failing of a mass media approach and the virtues of a strategically targeted piece of marketing. Highly targeted marketing can be likened to a laser beam that, when focused to a single point, is powerful enough to cut through steel. In marketing we go through a process called market segmentation, this is where we divide heterogeneous groups of buyers or potential buyers into more homogeneous groups with relatively similar product needs. This way we can tailor a marketing mix to better serve the needs of a target market. This process is also vastly more efficient as less of the marketing resources will ‘miss its mark’.

Age is one of those factors that we segment markets by and it’s not hard to see that people from different age groups collectively have a shared set of needs and wants, a fact that has been recognised for as long as sociology has been around for. As the marketing process becomes more sophisticated, there is an inherent expectation of increased efficiencies and clients are expecting their marketing dollars to work harder for them than ever before.

Societies don’t exist in a vacuum, otherwise we’d all be eating roasts, spuds and gravy every day of the week. No, humans have an incredible capacity to change and adapt to new situations and scenarios, adopting different elements from other cultures and delving into experimental lifestyles, some stick and some don’t. The ever-changing nature of Man demands that the industry works hard to update and redefine the understanding of the traditional age segments (e.g. the boomers, y-gens, x-gens) and create new definitions of emerging groups which share similar needs, wants or beliefs.

One such emerging segment is the i-generation, which is the newest generation following the footsteps of the generation Y. This generation knows only digital and have grown up with easy access to information. For them, having information in the palm of your hand, like an iPod or iPhone, is not only common but seen as a necessity. The needs and wants of this segment are vastly different to those who are not tech savvy or even those to the point who are techno-phobic. So a free 16GB iPod Touch as an incentive for a promotion would mean something very different to a boomer that it would an i-gen.

Defining markets is an ongoing process that will evolve as our culture and society changes. As long as we marketers are asking the important questions now, such as, “what shared beliefs will the y-gens have in their retirement?” In the future, our clients will benefit from our ability to target these homogenous groups and see better results from their marketing dollars.