Gen Z and Gender Identity: Toss Out the Stereotypes

Gen-Z wants gender inclusion, and brands that conduct customer persona research may uncover a larger market with these younger buyers.

In a week when a lot of the news covered a tragic fire caused by a so-called gender reveal party, it’s sort of ironic to realize that today’s babies may not grow up to view gender the same way their parents do at all.

Of course, babies get an assigned sex at birth. At the same time, Gen Z has already disrupted ideas about gender that their Baby Boomer, Millennial, and Gen X parents and grandparents just took for granted. The sex assigned at birth may or may not describe how individuals will grow up to view themselves.

And the way that people view themselves obviously influences the sorts of products they buy and even which businesses they choose to purchase those products from. Find out what marketers need to understand about changing perceptions of gender. This will help inform customer persona research, product development, and all aspects of marketing.

How Gen-Z attitudes about gender have changed

According to Pew Research, Gen-Z generally refers to people born after 1996. That means that some are young adults but many are still children. Right now, most surveys of this generation include people who are at least 13 years old. It’s possible that younger children will eventually form their own generation. Even so, Gen-Z will likely influence the attitudes of those that come after them.

Most importantly, Pew also found that members of Gen-Z tend to have very different attitudes about gender norms than their parents and grandparents. For some examples, Gen-Z members tend to have:

  • A comfort with gender-neutral pronouns: They’re most likely to know people who prefer gender-neutral pronouns for themselves. These younger people feel comfortable referring to an individual as “they” to avoid using “he” or “she.”
  • A preference for more than two gender options: They tend to believe that gender options on forms or surveys should include selections besides the traditional male or female. Leaving these out may skew results of marketing surveys and other data gathering. In the worst case, leaving out other gender options can even offend some respondents.
  • A desire for inclusion and diversity: Gen-Z generally feels that society should act more accepting to people who don’t define themselves in traditional gender roles. Since consumers tend to patronize companies they identify with, accepting changing gender definitions and promoting inclusion can help attract this market.

An audience analysis agency perspective on the positive side of disrupting gender norms

According to The Robin Report, a magazine for retail, fashion, and beauty executives, failing to account for changing gender norms can mean losing out on billions of dollars that Gen-Z and younger Millennials spend on retail goods. Some changes may prove quite simple.

These are some suggestions to help target audience demographics of Gen-Z better:

  • Consider gender-neutral packaging: Sure, young women have been purchasing “boyfriend” jeans for decades, but young men may also prefer to purchase a certain brand’s clothes and beauty products if they didn’t appear targeted solely to women. Consider using diverse models and maintaining authenticity by resisting the urge to dramatically Photoshop images.
  • Consider genderless products: Well-established luxury brands have introduced genderless fashion and even coed fashion shows. As an example, Abercrombie introduced a children’s line of genderless clothes, which appealed to progressive parents. Also, Victoria’s Secret made news by hiring a transgender model.
  • Don’t overlook the “other” genders: For instance, many cosmetics companies targeted their marketing to women. At the same time, one survey found that over half of men admitted to using at least one cosmetic product during 2018. These products included concealers and foundations. By embracing gender diversity, beauty companies can tap a huge market.

How an audience targeting agency can welcome Gen-Z consumers

If today’s brands want to grow by engaging an audience of younger people, they should stop limiting their potential by restricting themselves to traditional notions of gender. An audience insights agency may help businesses uncover some surprising news about a product’s potential market. And really, if a company just has to bend some gender rules to attract an audience, then that surprising news is really good news.

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Using Biometric Research to Measure Customer Reactions

Biometric research can help measure and evoke responses from customers. See how a market research company helps you understand customers with biometrics.

Biometrics refers to measurements and calculations of human features and behaviors. Most people still associate commercial biometrics with security, like thumbprint and facial recognition readers. Yet marketers already use this technology not only to measure reactions in labs but even to evoke them at home or out on the street. Find out how a market research agency might suggest incorporating biometric research into the data that can help drive successful, data-driven marketing.

How businesses use biometric research for marketing

To demonstrate how a quantitative and qualitative market research agency might use biometrics to improve marketing, Bloomberg highlighted the example of Expedia. Their market research company invites actual customers into their lab with the enticement of a gift card and a chance to help improve their experience with a service they already use.

Inside the lab, a young woman checked flights and hotels for a trip she had already planned with her family. While she used the website as she normally would at home, a researcher watched her through a two-way mirror, eye-trackers tracked where she looked, and sensors monitored facial muscles that would detect any trace of a smile or frown. After the experience, the subject also filled out a survey to help enhance the researcher’s understanding of the experience.

Expedia stored this information along with data from other research subjects, so they could use it to better understand users and, in turn, keep improving the customer experience. As a travel company, they understand that emotion drives vacation planning. They also know they need to discover the feelings of trip planners better in order to design an experience that can compete with online rivals.

Note that Expedia has not just survived but remained competitive since 1996. Unlike so many rivals, they survived the tech bubble in the early 2000s. While they haven’t always executed every business move perfectly, the company credits at least some of their success to a constant drive to understand the motivations of their customers. Their leadership in biometrics offers one good example.

Using biometric tech to test products and designs

Besides facial recognition, some technology can also measure galvanic skin response, often called GSR, or simply “sweat response”. GSR measures the state of arousal and requires sensors applied to the skin, so it’s usually done in a lab.

According to the National University of Singapore, marketers employ GSR in several research applications for product or website design. Even though this tech can measure arousal, it can’t say if the reaction comes from a positive or negative response, so it’s best combined with other methods, such as surveys or facial recognition.

How biometrics research can assist customer-facing marketing

For a different take on using biometrics for marketing, Trend Hunter descended into a subway to report on the example of Coca-Cola’s Coke-Moji displays. The marketing research agency for Coca-Cola was not so much interested in gathering quantitative data from biometrics, but in using it as a tool to engage consumers. Just as on the internet, subway users can develop ad-blindness because of the daily barrage of consumer marketing they see in the station and on the trains.

The display showed people who passed by an emoji shaped like a bottle cap. Sensors read facial expressions, and then the emoji playfully duplicated them. The device worked to engage people and, perhaps, even brighten their mood a bit.

Walmart is also using facial recognition technology in a more subtle way to help improve customer experiences. They’re developing a system that will use sensors at the checkout counter to detect dissatisfaction and then alert employees to offer assistance. They also plan to keep this information to correlate mood with purchasing behavior. Walmart hopes this data can help them find and resolve pain points in order to improve revenues.

Why work with a market research agency to employ biometrics?

The world’s largest and most successful companies know they need to understand their customers better in order to engage and serve them. Combining data from biometrics sensors with subjective experiences from consumers can help them achieve this understanding. A quantitative and qualitative marketing research agency can work to help their clients employ the right combination of research tools to help their customers achieve this goal.

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Why Market Research Online Communities Make Sense

For qualitative research companies, market research online communities provide an efficient, flexible, and robust tool for generating consumer insights.

These days, people connect online with each other and with the companies that they patronize. That’s one reason why a qualitative marketing research agency may suggest using online communities to gain a deep understanding of customers.

Market research online communities only came into being about a decade ago, pioneered by the UK’s Further, which describes itself as a Human Insights company. Further’s team saw the potential of emergent Web 2.0 technology to conduct qualitative research online. Despite the relative newness of using these online research groups, they’ve rapidly gained importance as a way to help data-driven companies better understand their market.

What are market research online communities?

Sometimes called “MROCs” or “insight communities”, marketers might compare market research online communities to traditional focus groups. Instead of gathering the group together in a room, qualitative research companies gather their groups entirely online. Group organizers pick participants that fit some criteria, like demographics that fit a buyer persona, general interests, or specific experiences. But unlike a traditional focus group, where all participants are physically present at the same time, MROCs enable participants to log in and out of the community whenever it is convenient for them to do so. The asynchronous nature of MROCs enables participants from different parts of the country – or different parts of the world – to engage in qualitative research studies.

When they join the community, these participants may perform various tasks. Some examples include surveys, discussions, brainstorms, and even games. Each of these activities helps the researchers gather the information that marketers can use to improve test theories, answer questions, or further define their market. While this article mostly discusses these online groups for insight-driven qualitative marketing research, scholars also use them to gather information for studies.

Three common kinds of MROCs

This list briefly explains the three common kinds of MROCs:

  • Short-term: These communities only last from a few days to a few months and can yield quick insights with a modest budget. Typically, researchers have tightly focused goals and engage with up to 60 participants.
  • Pop-up: Sometimes also called “on-off communities”, researchers will summon these groups as the need arises. They generally use from 50 to 250 participants. A qualitative marketing research agency may suggest a pop-up community when they have a limited budget and few questions but want to keep options open for more research in the future.
  • Continuous: Researchers keep a long-term or even permanent community open when they see a consistent need for answers and have the budget to support it. These may require up to 5,000 participants and a dedicated team of staff to manage and moderate.

Benefits of MROCs for qualitative user research

Successful advertising, marketing, and even product development depend upon high-quality marketing research. Marketers find that running online communities lets them make efficient use of their research budget because they’re:

  • Cost- and time-effective: Online research platforms can provide the tools to affordably and easily manage all kinds of groups, engaging with participants in multiple timezones, and including feedback from people who find it difficult or impossible to travel to attend a traditional, in-person focus group. 
  • Flexible: Researchers can determine how long to run the group, how many participants to include, and the kinds of activities to use for information gathering. While some businesses benefit from running continuous online communities, others can meet their goals rapidly.
  • Robust: Platforms for conducting MROCs have a lot of the same features that online forums and social networks offer. In fact, some businesses even use groups in existing social networks, though purpose-designed platforms can provide tools that make tracking and managing participants easier. In either case, it’s possible to host discussions, conduct polls, and even post pictures and videos.
  • Profitable: Having a way to gather high-quality information also helps businesses maximize returns from other marketing activities. For instance, they can learn how to target ads or which features to include in their product design.

Market researchers can trust the overall quality of the information they receive from these online groups. It’s easy to segment participants in real-time, based on their comments or demographics, and to tag verbatim quotes for qualitative analysis. Some people may perfectly fit the target but feel reticent about expressing their opinion in a room full of others. In-person focus groups generally have to stick to a tight schedule; however, online communities can allow more flexibility.

With the relatively anonymous nature of sitting behind a keyboard, participants often feel more relaxed about speaking up. Because they can log in online, respondents also have the luxury of chiming in when the existing discussion has helped them frame their thoughts. Sometimes, researchers even add an element of gamification or social engagement to the mix to help encourage participation.

Why online communities make sense

These days, consumers compare, shop, and even socialize online. It only makes sense to include marketing research online communities in every toolbox of marketing research techniques. When compared to more traditional forms of surveying the target audience, they also provide a robust solution that can help spare budgets and improve bottom lines.

BONUS: Listen to Stephen Cribbett and Terri Sorenson from Further discuss the benefits of qualitative marketing research online communities with Bigeye’s VP of Insights on our podcast, IN CLEAR FOCUS.

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What an Audience Analysis Agency Thinks About True Crime

What kind of people like true crime podcasts, documentaries, and articles? Learn how a brand personas agency views true crime fans.

Everybody’s heard the old adage that says crime doesn’t pay, especially in the long run. Plenty of stories about the eventual fates of criminals prove the saying true in some sense. They often end up dead, in prison, or at least, disgraced. Still, that saying sure does not apply to a genre of crime stories called true crime. In fact, true crime podcasts, books, and documentaries have been attracting legions of fans and lots of revenue.

Meanwhile, all kinds of businesses have jumped on the bandwagon. They want to know if they can use this fascination with factual accounts of newsworthy crimes to bolster their own audience, so they may seek the perspective of an audience analysis agency to find out more.

An audience analysis agency perspective of true crime fans

As an example of true crime popularity, according to Forbes, the “My Favorite Murder” podcast raked in over $15 million last year. That’s more than finance guru Dave Ramsey’s earnings of $10 million. Out of all podcasts, “My Favorite Murder” only ranked behind comedian Joe Rogan’s $30 million income.

Besides the “My Favorite Murder” podcast and related content, true crime fans can find plenty of other podcasts, books, and even Netflix specials on the topic of real-life criminals and their victims. The public has had an appetite for true crime stories for years. Everybody knows about Jack the Ripper.

Still, these tales of crime, suffering, and punishment have gained unprecedented traction in the last few decades. Obviously, this genre can attract a large audience. Still, before deciding if true crime stories provide a good opportunity to for business sponsorship, a brand personas agency would want to know more about the audience.

Why do so many people like true crime stories?

A social psychologist named Amanda Vicary also grew fascinated with true crime. In turn, she also gained an interest in the psychological appeal of these sometimes grizzly and disturbing stories. For one thing, she had presumed that this sort of thing would mostly appeal to men. After doing a little research, she found out that women made up the overwhelming majority of the audience. Even though she liked this genre, the large female majority of the audience surprised her.

Dr. Vicary wanted to resolve this apparent paradox with a study that she eventually even published in a scientific journal. She discovered that, like herself, women’s interest generally centered upon the mental processes involved in these criminal acts. Perhaps surprisingly, women usually also preferred stories with female victims.

It’s surprising because Vicary said research has found that women tend to fear becoming victims of crime more than men do. As she dug into the mystery, she found that reacting to that fear may have attracted the audience. She finally concluded that that these stories drew in women because they hoped to learn enough about these acts of violence or exploitation enough to figure out which steps they could take to either prevent or survive them.

Dr. Vicary admitted that many women might experience this feeling subconsciously. Consciously or not, people may view true crime stories as a way to prepare and even to gain comfort, and this knowledge should factor into your audience analysis.

How can understanding true crime fans help with audience marketing?

Actually, it’s possible for marketers to learn a lot about true crime audiences during the audience analysis portion of their marketing research. Just from Dr. Vicary’s research, a brand personas agency would learn the likely gender of the majority. They would also understand that most of their audience doesn’t indulge in these alarming stories for a vicarious thrill. They don’t view the criminals as heroes either.

Instead, they want to better understand crimes as a way to gain the information that they could use to protect themselves of feel comforted they would never get into the same position as the victim. The audience feels threatened on some level, and they view true crime as a sort of self-defense school.

That’s not enough information for a completed set of buyer personas. Still, it’s a good start. To learn more, marketers would need to probe further into the audience for any particular kind of content they might either plan to produce or sponsor. Considering Dr. Vicary, a noted researcher and professor, enjoys these kinds of stories, it’s not wise to make assumptions about educational levels, income, or age.

Why consider true crime content for audience marketing?

Knowing even this much, this kind of audience might spark the interest of any businesses promoting home security, self-defense products, or almost anything related to preparing better defenses against the type of villains featured in true crime stories. These people already demonstrated a willingness to invest in informative content, so they’re probably also likely to invest in other solutions.

Also, a majority of the audience appears eager to take control of their lives by educating themselves. Beyond security, they may also have an interest in businesses that help them learn new things, enjoy different experiences, or even gain more power. Businesses that promote courses or products related to health, business, self-improvement, careers, and even beauty may find an attentive market.

All in all, true crime fans may provide a surprisingly receptive and open-minded market for all sorts of companies that can offer them value.

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A Serious Consumer Insights Perspective on Silly Content

Marketing levity for consumer insights marketing: Humor can help mitigate bad press, explain serious issues, and of course, attract a willing audience.

During these days of rising health, political, and economic concerns, plenty of people can use a laugh. As many respectable and completely serious doctors and scientists have done before, Clarity Clinic even says that humor can provide good medicine for mental and physical health issues. Perhaps, that makes this the perfect time for a little media levity, even to address very serious topics.

With that in mind, gain some perspective from a consumer insights company to see how adding a bit of levity to marketing content can help attract an audience and even improve a brand’s reputation.

How a consumer insights company treats humor as serious business

A company like Netflix doesn’t just offer marketing content; for them, content provides the basis for their entire business model. Some people may find it surprising that a show like “The Floor is Lava” has even trended to the top for popularity in the U.S. market. On the other hand, even Mashable TV critics praised the show for offering some levity and fun during 2020, a year when many people have found little to celebrate.

Using humor to take the edge off of poor PR events

From the view of a consumer behavior analysis agency, some companies have done very well incorporating jokes, even in the face of poor PR. Take a look at an example of the great KFC chicken debacle. Apparently, KFC changed suppliers, and ensuing problems resulted in chicken shortages that even led to a number of store closings.

In those pre-pandemic times of just last year, it was always easy to buy such staples as toilet paper and chicken. Nobody ever thought twice about eating inside a KFC, rather than using the drive-through. Thus, consumers expressed outrage when they could not immediately dine on their favorite meal in 2018.

In response, KFC took out plenty ads to apologize to their loyal and hungry fans. Instead of printing KFC on the image of a bucket of chicken, they rearranged the numbers to spell FCK. According to The Drum, the naughty humor worked because the public appeared to forgive them. Their ads and images even went viral on social sites. A marketing and consumer behavior analysis agency named Mother came up with this effective strategy, which also generated quite a bit of positive attention for them.

Can humor always take the edge off of PR disasters or other serious matters?

Obviously, KFC’s mistake pales when compared to some other PR disasters. For instance, an audience personas agency probably would never have suggested that Equifax try to use humor to cope with their massive data breach. Consumer insight marketing professionals should think about the audience before they suggest the right tactic to take for different types of problems or errors.

On the other hand, marketers can find examples of businesses using humor to address very serious issues. As am example, Melbourne’s Metro released a “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign to help promote safety and reduce the number of accidents. The videos ended up with a greater number of views than the amount of people that even live in the whole country of Australia. According to their media staff, they wanted a way to educate their community about safety without turning them off.

As another example, Burger King used a humorous video to educate the public about their company stance on the serious issue of net neutrality. After they interviewed average people, they found that most internet users really did not understand the idea behind the controversy. Thus, they used a humorous video that showed the order taker giving higher priority to people who paid more for their Whopper than those who paid the regular place, which they equated to internet providers throttling bandwidth for some websites but not others.

The pros and cons of using humor to grow a marketing audience

Marketers may sometimes use humor to help address very serious issues, as discussed above. Used right, funny content can work just as well for everyday marketing too. With that in mind, consider some benefits of employing humor to help grow an audience for marketing campaigns:

  • Attention grabbing and relatable: Consumers get bombarded with lots of ads for companies that want to sell them something, and they may pay attention to and even care more about a company that makes them laugh too.
  • Memorable: Studies have linked humor with better recall, so any company that wants people to remember their name might earn the privilege with some levity.
  • Often share-worthy: Internet users like to share funny videos, quotes, and memes and may feel less inclined to simply share an ordinary advertisement.

On the other hand, businesses need to avoid certain pitfalls that almost all comedians have fallen into at some point. They should remain wary of giving offense, appearing amateurish, or simply not landing their joke. As in the case of Equifax, for example, plenty of comedians may have joked about them, but they wisely decided not to choose that exact time to laugh at themselves.

Why consult a consumer behavior analysis agency about humor in marketing?

Mark Twain called referred to humor as mankind’s greatest blessing. Particularly during stressful times, a bit of levity can lighten up many heavy loads. By expertly incorporating a funny scenario or even a self-effacing joke into marketing campaigns, businesses can gain more attention and in many cases, even do their target audience a favor.

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Demystifying the DINK Demographic for Creating Brand Personas

The DINK demographic usually has more time and money to spend on themselves, so it’s worthwhile to explore the dual-income, no-kids market. 

Everybody has heard of the Gen Z, Gen X, Millennial, Baby Boomer, and Greatest Generation. However, the DINK demographic, short for Dual Income and No Kids, has now entered marketing lingo. Since any audience development agency may presume that many couples without kids have more time and disposable income than those with larger families, they’ve become a prime target for consumer marketing. 

How an audience development agency develops brand personas for the DINK demographic 

DINK refers to two-income couples who have chosen not to have children. It doesn’t necessarily mean these couples belong a specific age or income group; however, marketers may tend to mostly picture them as Millennials with decent salaries.

As for why they’re often associated with Millennials, just last year, even before the COVID crisis, Business Insider mentioned that the U.S. birthrate had declined to its lowest in three decades. A survey attributed the decline mostly to Millennials’ uncertainty about the future.

Since the Millennial generation has grown to become the majority of the workforce, they get a lot of attention from marketers anyway. Still, sometimes DINK can refer to members of other generations, even Baby Boomers who are empty nesters.

Digging deeper into the DINK generation

If some DINK couples decide they’re not ready for parenting, they appear fairly eager for other kinds of experiences. While nobody should try to put all dual-income-no-children couples in one basket, marketers can enjoy great success with this group as a target market with the right approach and product.

From the perspective of an audience insights agency, marketers should consider these general observations to succeed with the market:

1. Research target audience demographics

Some DINK couples may choose to skip parenthood because they feel uncertain or are simply unwilling to give up their freedom. However, in other cases, the idea of parenthood might not appeal to them or even be possible. Many even choose to delay parenthood but consider it a possibility in the future. That’s why an audience targeting agency should conduct research on specific target market demographics and behavior to better understand their likely audience in order to develop useful buyer personas.

2. Consider marketing innovative products, services, or businesses 

Even though a DINK couple might not feel ready to make a lifelong commitment of parenthood, they generally tend to be early adapters and interested in innovation. They may also have more time and money to learn about and experience new things.

Even if one product doesn’t appear terribly innovative, it’s good to focus upon any fresh or transformative aspects of the business. As an example, several vitamin companies have developed successful apps that help customers figure out which of their brand of supplements will benefit their customer’s health the most.

3. Promote company values

In contrast to the image of a DINK couple as very focused upon themselves, many use some of their extra time to volunteer and stay current with social issues. As a generation, most Millennials appear to care about patronizing businesses that share their values. An audience development agency should consider this trait as they develop a picture of their market and the marketing message they intend to send to them.

4. How certain markets may appeal to potential traits of a DINK audience

This list explains some of the types of markets that might appeal to a DINK audience:

  • Luxury goods: This market tends to like to share their experiences and not mind paying for value. Nice cars, high-quality, gourmet food, and similar luxury goods can reflect well on them in their own eyes and that of their social circle.
  • Things to do with spare time: Without the demands of getting kids to bed or scheduling babysitters, leisure activities may attract  couples without kids. They might take the chance to buy a boat or learn to cook their own gourmet meals.
  • Travel: Couples without children might have an easier time scheduling vacations because they won’t need to book things around school and kid’s activities. They’re also likely to travel further and not need to skimp on a budget vacation because it’s just the two of them.
  • Experiences: Again, innovative experiences will tend to attract DINK couples, and that might include anything from new entertainment and museum special events to a home automation system or solar panels. If the business must market something more ordinary, like soup mix, perhaps they could incorporate a message about eco-friendly packaging or service projects the business supports to demonstrate their corporate values.

Why market to the DINK demographic?

Forgoing parenthood and having both partners in a marriage work does not necessarily mean a couple enjoys a high income. Still, people without children may also be able to save money over their parenting peers. They may buy or rent smaller houses and apartments and don’t need to share disposable income with kids. Also, dual-income, no-children families may have more free time to enjoy some of the finer things and more energy to invest in learning about them.  Having time and money can make them an excellent target market for the right businesses.

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