Editorial Scathing editorial

Just when revolutionary changes throughout the consumer marketplace - combined with the emergence of new science fiction-like communications tools and technologies - appear to be turning the marketing process into something that would rival high-level bond trading in its complexity, along...

Just when revolutionary changes throughout the consumer marketplace – combined with the emergence of new science fiction-like communications tools and technologies – appear to be turning the marketing process into something that would rival high-level bond trading in its complexity, along comes someone like David K. Foot.

Speaking in Toronto recently at a marketing seminar sponsored by Reader’s Digest magazine, the University of Toronto economist-turned-demographer helped remind a crowd of about 550 marketing, advertising and media executives that marketing acumen often requires little more than common sense observation and analysis.

Using the study of changing population patterns as his reference, Foot introduced a variety of new, disarmingly simplified, interpretations of some of the more celebrated insights of the day.

The basis of many of Foot’s conclusions stem from the simple fact that the North American population is aging, and that there was a huge surge in the birth of new babies after the Second World War, which brought about a distortion that will continue as an aberration in our population mix until the Baby Boom generation dies off.

So-called ‘cocooning’ is not a new phenomenon, as pop trend-watchers such as Faith Popcorn would have us believe. Foot argues the desire to burrow into a soft couch in a suburban home instead of heading out to a smoke-filled disco are characteristics that become increasingly common to people when they pass the age of 30. (The Baby Boom is viewed as a 20-year generation span that includes people currently aged from 26 to 45 years. Its peak in Canada is people aged 32 years.)

The traits that cocooning attempts to encapsulate are nothing ‘new,’ Foot says. However, he suggests that because of the dominance of 26-to-45-year-olds in the population today, and probably because these people are now becoming the decision-makers in control of big companies and the media, and also because their importance as a buying power continues to build, their predilections and their concerns get disproportionate press. Thus the impression is left that a return to old-fashioned family values – which is a mind-set reflective of a population group – becomes widely viewed as a new societal trend.

Foot uses the same kind of simple population mathematics, for instance, to suggest that the current fuss over quality and service is also nothing ‘new’ in the sense of a newly developed social pattern. The answer may be found in the fact that as people get older they have less time to shop. Nor do they have the time to return goods that are faulty or inferior. And, they also have more money. So it only makes sense that they would be willing to pay a bit more for service and products that save them the one thing that they are short of – time.

And lest people were left wondering whether this common sense approach – call it marketing through demographics – is just another trend of the day, Foot made the point in his thought-provoking lecture that all of his observations were based on one key assumption: ‘That every year you get one year older.’