August 14, 2015 11:00 ET

Fuse Reports Traditional Consumer Segmentation Is Dead

Why Marketers Can No Longer Rely on Demographic Conventions

BURLINGTON, VT--(Marketwired - Aug 14, 2015) - Marketers, including those focused on Gen Z and Millennials, routinely use demographic analysis to help craft a brand's message, positioning and marketing. By grouping consumers mainly by age, geography, ethnicity, gender, income and family status, marketers have been able to draw conclusions about that group's shared interests and consumption behaviors.

But the assumptions we've grown to accept from traditional demographic segments are often no longer reliable. We've entered a new era of how we must study consumers -- what calls "post-demographic consumerism."

Consumers today construct their identity based on their interests with little regard to their age, gender, ethnicity, etc. Their individual interests are driving their behavior and consumption habits. For many brands, this creates growth opportunities (and challenges); consider the skateboard brand whose targets can now include "skate dads" in addition to their traditional target of 13-19 year olds.

Across the teen and young adult landscape, there is evidence of consumer interests trumping conventional demographics:

  • Technology: Social media use is not equal across ethnicities; the disparity is greatest on Instagram, where 34% of Hispanics are users compared to only 21% of White/Non-Hispanics1
  • Sports: Sports that were once regional are growing rapidly in non-traditional markets; the "East Coast" sport of lacrosse is now the fastest growing team sport nationally, driven by explosive growth in places like California, Minnesota, and Texas2
  • Music: Country music's fans skew young and it's now the top national format among Millennials, having grown nearly 20% with Gen Z over the last two years3
  • Gaming: Gaming isn't just for adolescent boys; 52% of people playing games are women4

What's causing this change? Fuse has found that the following insights lay the foundation for much of the changes in consumer behavior we are now witnessing:

  • The influence multicultural consumers have on the attitudes of White ("majority") consumers; 87% of Non-Hispanics believe Hispanic culture has influenced American culture with regard to food, 63% with regard to music, and 59% with regard to sports5
  • Even by the most conservative estimates (like the US Census), 75% of Americans have internet access; combine that with use of social media and other digital tools and Americans of all ages have access to information at unprecedented volume and speed
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, our life expectancy is now nearly 79 years; Americans are living longer, healthier lives and continuing to pursue the interests they developed as teens and young adults for decades6

Day-to-day application of post-demographic consumerism doesn't call for the complete dismissal of traditional demographic data. Data on things like income play an important role in understanding purchasing power. However, relying on a dated consumer demographics model has limitations -- brands need to build a more modern profile of consumers who think alike, even if they don't look alike.

For more Gen Z and Millennial insights or information about Fuse, visit:

1 "Demographics of Key Social Networking Platforms" Pew Research Center, 2014

2  "The Lacrosse Market" Active Marketing Group, 2007

3 "Walk the Blurred Lines: Country Music's Cross-Over Popularity" Nielsen, 2014

4 "UK gamers: more women play games than men, report finds" The Guardian, 2014


6 "Deaths: Final Data for 2013" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013

About Fuse
Fuse is a marketing agency founded in 1995 that connects brands with teens and young adults through sports, music, fashion, video gaming and other relevant cultural interests. Fuse's services include consumer insights, brand strategy, public relations, experiential marketing, creative services, and social media. The Fuse staff, led by Partners Bill Carter, Issa Sawabini and Brett Smith, is comprised of marketing professionals and cultural experts who have worked for some of the most prominent brands and agencies in the country. For more about Fuse, check out our website or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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