Consumerism is at the heart of our country's economy. Consumers are people who purchase goods and services from other people who are the sellers of those items. The goods and services span the gamut from intangibles like stocks and bonds, to tangible items like cars and refrigerators, to consumables like a Big Mac sandwich. The transaction between consumer and seller is an exchange of value. The buyer freely exchanges the monetary value of the item being purchased while the seller exchanges the perceived value inherent in the object being bought.
Most marketers refer to the huge group of all possible consumers as the general market. Within the general market, groups get further defined to help marketers zero in those people who would be considered in their particular consumer franchise. Marketers use demographic definers to understand the unique nature of their consumer franchise. The most common demographic is gender, male or female. Age is another major definer of a consumer group. Other definers include geography, number in household and income.
A standard axiom in marketing planning is to know your consumer. Marketers will develop profiles of their consumer franchise, first on demographic measures and secondarily on psychographic measures. Psychographics could be determined from conducting market research studies that ask questions that reveal the psychology of the consumer. Instead of asking a consumer's real age for example, a marketer might pose a question such as "What do you consider your ideal age?" The difference between a consumer who is 60 years old but feels like he is 26 is vast in terms of tastes, preferences and product selection.
Market segmentation is the practice in marketing that advocates defining groups within a consumer franchise and developing appeals specifically for that group. A simple segmentation would be to create advertising for a generic car brand that would appeal to males on one hand and females on the other. For men, the advertiser might decide to use a beautiful model to draw attention to the car from men. For women, the advertiser’s message might be ease of parking or rear seat safety features.
Multicultural Consumer Groups
The past few decades have seen a remarkable shift in the character of the general market as U.S. minority groups (African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans) have grown in size, affluence and influence. Marketers have taken notice and develop messages specifically targeted to those groups. In the case of Hispanics and Asians, there may be a number of different ethnic groups within those larger groups. The Asian market might include Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese consumers. Ideally, a marketer desiring to reach those groups effectively would need to develop separate in-language messages.