Much political media coverage these days focuses on demographic categories: How will candidate X do among women…among Black people…gay people…low-income people…etc? And much if not most political marketing is also aligned along these categories.
Demographic and targeting are also used in business marketing, of course. But that’s not the *only* approach that can be used.
In his book The Innovator’s Solution, the late Dr Clayton Christensen told of a restaurant chain which was trying to improve sales results for its milkshake product line. “The chain’s marketers segmented its customers along a variety of psychobehavioral dimension in order to define a profile of the customer most likely to buy milkshakes. In other words, it first structured its market by product–milkshakes–and then segmented it by the characteristics of existing milkshake customers….both attribute-based categorization schemes. It then assembled panels of people with these attributes, and explored whether making the shakes thinker, chocolatier, cheaper, or chunkier would satisfy them better.” Marketing 101 stuff, but it didn’t yield much in terms of results.
A different team of researchers. found that, surprisingly, most of the milkshakes were being bought in the early morning. Customer interviews indicated that these were people who faced a long, boring commute and wanted something to eat/drink on the way. Milkshakes were superior to alternatives because they didn’t get crumbs all over (like bagels) or get the steering wheel greasy (like a sausage & egg sandwich.) And the morning milkshake buyers wanted shakes that were thick, in a large container, whereas the customers at other times preferred less-viscous shakes and smaller containers. (Even though the morning and non-morning customers might be the very same individuals)
Christensen observed that a product can be thought of in terms of the ‘job’ it is doing for the customer: what is a customer trying to accomplish when he ‘hires a milkshake’?
The parallel isn’t perfect, but something like the same thought process might be applicable in political marketing: What is a voter trying to accomplish when he ‘hires’ a candidate for X position?
For example, there are a lot of voters who lives in areas with poor public schools and who are not in a position to send their kids to private school. Maybe the ‘job’ they want to ‘hire’ a politician for is to give them realistic alternatives. And maybe the appeal of this message is pretty independent of whether the voters are male, female, black, or white, and of whatever sexual preference they have.
There are a lot of voters who own small business. They have a lot of broadly-similar issues that are relevant to politics, and, again, these are mostly independent of the usual demographic categories.
Seems to me that a lot more could be done with this kind of cross-demographic-category marketing…not that demographics can be totally ignored, but that other voter-behavior factors need more consideration.
Also, it’s important to note that the Democrats are, because of their emphasis on top-down planning, inherently much more focused on demographic categorization than are the Republicans. As Rose Wilder Lane wrote:
Nobody can plan the actions of even a thousand living persons, separately. Anyone attempting to control millions must divide them into classes, and make a plan applying to these classes. But these classes do not exist. No two persons are alike. No two are in the same circumstances; no two have the same abilities; beyond getting the barest necessities of life, no two have the same desires.Therefore the men who try to enforce, in real life, a planned economy that is their theory, come up against the infinite diversity of human beings.
But people who think in categories…and rigid categories, at that….tend to communicate in those same categories. Which may not always be to their interest.