Gaining a Better Understanding of Where Your Audience is Coming From

What event or events would you say have had the greatest impact on the United States during YOUR lifetime? It’s a question put to 2,025 adult survey respondents in a mid-2016 Pew Research Center poll, the results of which were covered by Claudia Deane, Maeve Duggan and Rich Morin. Before looking at the article, try to answer the question yourself. What are the 10 historic events during your lifetime that have had the greatest impact on the country?

What survey respondents say when asked this question provides some interesting insights into their broader view of national culture and recent history, and these are key insights for marketers trying to resonate with their audiences. For example, the perceived importance of the September 11 terror attacks were ranked very highly by most respondents. As the article notes, “Roughly three-quarters (76%) of the public include the Sept. 11 terror attacks as one of the 10 events during their lifetime with the greatest impact on the country.” The perceived significance of 9/11 spanned a number of different demographic dimensions — political leanings, age, sex — with one major exception: “The one exception to this pattern is the views of blacks and whites. While the Sept. 11 attacks easily top the list for whites, it shares the top spot with the election of President Barack Obama among blacks. Similarly, the civil rights movement ranks behind only the election of Obama and 9/11 on the list of most significant events for blacks but is absent from the top 10 lifetime events for whites.”

While there is general agreement on the importance of the 9/11 attacks, the survey illustrates increasing differences as we go down the list of significant events. “Just as striking as the public’s consensus on the impact of 9/11 is the steep drop-off in the proportion of Americans who name other notable events. The election of Obama is the second-most frequently named event, listed by 40% of the public. Every other event is named by fewer than one-quarter of all adults. This includes the changes ushered in by the internet, personal computers, smartphones and other innovations of the tech revolution, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the Vietnam War.”

The key takeaway here for marketers is the importance of knowing your audience, particularly when it comes to their outlook on cultural and historical events. Shared experiences are a great way to relate to your audience; however, when invoking major events, you should think carefully about how different groups might view those events in terms of the events’ importance and even meaning.

Too often marketers use their own life experiences and their own filters to consider how their market might react to their messaging. That’s okay if their audience is like them. If not, though, you’re likely to create a disconnect that diminishes the impact of your marketing communications.

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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