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Mindsets: The New Way to Categorize Us

Mindy Armstrong / October 8th 2016

When it comes to food, flavor still reigns as king. Of course it does. With over 45% of Millennials choosing to visit restaurants that offer dishes featuring new or innovative flavors & ingredients and over 80% of consumers seeking new food flavors and ingredients, food continues to offer Insta-worthy experiences. And while Millennials still gain most of the credit for this way of dining, everyone is looking for an experience, not just the most recent media target for demographic stalking.

But this isn’t about food. And it’s not about millennials. Instead, it’s time to talk differently about targeting consumers. It’s the time of post-demographic consumerism when traditional demographics have blurred and become less dependable. For instance, in a recent Food Hall visit and laptop session, I was joined at my communal table by two lovely ladiesfor their lunchtime chat. Observation-based research on consumer behavior was in motion. The two women grabbed their lunch from two separate vendors. The first grabbed something conventional—a wrap or sandwich, nothing crazy—and chose her spot. Next to me. The second women picked up something “trendy” and came back to the table to her seat directly across from her lunch date. She proceeded to tell her friend all about her lunch. What was in it, what the purveyor had said to her, about the awards that it had won. So millennial of them. But, they were in their mid-60s. They finished off their lunch over sorted racy topics and stories and topped it off with some fresh cut fries. Because, why not?

The point is, the conversations they had, the site they had chosen and the food that they picked up, was very much in line with the patterns of a younger demographic. But that is so 2014. This is 2016, folks, and we are not to be defined so easily. According to, post-demographic consumerism can be defined as follows: People – of all ages and in all markets – are constructing their own identities more freely than ever. As a result, consumption patterns are no longer defined by ‘traditional’ demographic segments such as age, gender, location, income, family status and more. This post-demographic way of talking was inevitable, of course. And it is not about food. It’s about how we’re interacting in the marketplace, bending age barriers, shaking up gender stereotypes and doing what we like, regardless of the expectations.

Let’s face it, your grandmother is likely on Facebook and sharing her opinions via Twitter. In fact, according to The Futures Company, 57% of 50+ consumers agree that technology has made us more connected to each other and 61% of 50+ consumers agree that social networks play a key role in making me feel more connected with my friends and loved ones. Pew Research Center shares that since 2011, the amount of internet users aged 65+ on social networking sites has risen 20%, the most of any age group. And, Twitter's fastest growing demographic between 2012 and 2013 was the 55-64 year age bracket, growing 79%, according to Buffer.

Gender stereotypes are also falling to the wayside with men and women choosing paths that would have otherwise left them in the minority not too long ago. For instance, Ey and Harris Interactive recently released that 67% of men have changed jobs or said they would be willing to do so to better balance family life, versus 57% of women. And, NY Public Library shared in 2015 that out of the thousands of applicants on a waitlist for free coding classes at the New York Public Library, 73% are women.

Everyone wants a memorable experience. More and more, the evidence of those experiences is how we are connecting with friends and family. In real life, yes, but even more online. Sharing connects us and the desire for connection is not unique to one traditional demographic set. The time has come to throw the old standards of targeting out the window. The lines just no longer exist.

So, where do you start? Perhaps, it’s time to be a little less functional and get a little emotional on us. Define what characteristics or mindsets that you want to attract. As you start to capture this list, a persona or two is likely to reveal itself. Where can this persona be found? What defines them? How are they sharing? How are they connecting? And then, go say hello. Learn a little. Observe. Listen. Eavesdrop if you have to. Regardless of the path, meet them where they are. It’ll be fun. 

Written by: Mindy Armstrong, HC Partner & Growth Strategist
Photo credit: Jessica Ozment