What should brands do when consumers don’t fit into boxes anymore?

In WGSN’s latest white paper, Future-proofing Your Brand, we explore the idea that in order to stay relevant, businesses need to solve big problems and at the same time be empathetic to consumers.

How do they do this? By developing agility, and being adaptable to change, while anticipating future shifts and remaining balanced.

Simple, right? Over a series of blogs, I’m going to look at some of the key shifts at a macro and consumer level that present challenges to brands and which will require agility in order to stay relevant.

First up, challenge number one:

Knowing Your Consumer When Demographics Don’t Apply Any More

It’s all well and good to talk about the importance of knowing your consumer as a core pillar of brand identity, however, the process of understanding and defining consumers is changing: people don’t fit neatly into boxes any more.

But what about all of those Millennials with the capital M? It’s OK, they’re not going anywhere just yet, as demographics in the form of generational cohorts will still relevant.

However, the danger here is making generalisations based on a birth year that don’t necessarily reflect geography, personal attitudes or self-perception. So, how can brands navigate these murky waters of consumer classification?

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Converging Lifestyles: Aging Populations & a Youth Surge

We’re facing a future in which we’ll see more generations living together than ever before, with extremes in populations at either end of the age spectrum. As once clearly different attributes blur, such as tech becoming more ubiquitous among older consumers, commonalities are increasing and ultimately lifestyles will converge.

The Perennial consumer is an example of this. While it may seem like yet another buzzword to remember (think Xennial), the term Perennials was coined by US internet entrepreneur Gina Pell to define the ‘no-age mindset’ of women traditionally grouped as Gen X or Boomers. This is reflected in a study conducted by marketing agency SuperHuman who found that 80 per cent of respondents felt society’s assumptions about middle-aged women do not represent how they live their lives.

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Psychographics Over Demographics

We can look to marketing teams for some guidance on actionable ways to address this shift. In fact, how to incorporate demographic and psychographic segmentation has long been a challenge of marketers. What’s been emerging recently is the possibility of focusing on psychographics instead of demographics, with creative brands developing campaigns that target a common behaviour, interest or emotion.

Mattress brand Casper did this in a quirky way by running a series of 15-second ads on US TV networks, at around 2am earlier this year. The ads featured the phrase “Can’t sleep?” superimposed over video footage with a phone number to call. By dialling in people were directed to a series of pre-recorded sounds – intended to help insomniacs and induce sleep.


Navigating how to segment and speak to consumers in these changing – and increasingly emotional – ways is crucial for businesses to anticipate what will ultimately become the status quo.

Mindset is WGSN’s custom advisory business. We work with you to identify your next growth opportunity by leveraging the combined expertise of our trend team, our unrivalled insight on future trends and our data warehouse. Get the insights on how to future-proof your brand on our complimentary white paper here.

Know what’s next. Become a WGSN member today to benefit from our daily trend intelligence, retail analytics, consumer insights and bespoke consultancy services.

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