Marketing and selling a product or service in a healthy economy can be an exciting challenge. When economic times get tough, it can quickly become a frustrating and disheartening burden -- especially if the marketer has not kept apace of developing trends or has not properly targeted his market.
There is no question that our current soft economy will continue to have an adverse impact on all levels of business during the coming months. Consumer confidence levels continue to fluctuate, resulting in cautious spending patterns.
Tourism, San Diego's third largest industry, is also feeling the pressures of a weaker economy and the lingering impact of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The national decline in business travel has taken its toll on various segments of San Diego's visitor industry, adversely affecting not only corporate hotels and meeting venues, but transportation, communication, entertainment and production companies as well, to name just a few.
While our leisure travel market remains relatively stable due to the region's diversity of attractions, we certainly can't become complacent under these changing economic times.
The San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau (ConVis) recognized the importance of some key marketing principles -- such as developing the signature San Diego brand -- in attracting and keeping high visitor volumes. In addition, our marketing strategies are developed around several key demographic trends that are changing the face of the United States and influencing social organization and culture.
Whether you are selling a visitor destination, a luxury car or a software program, knowing consumers and their changing lifestyle patterns is paramount. "Know your consumer" is today's advertising mantra, and being aware of these patterns and trends will help you get the right message out to the buying public.
U.S. Census 2000 -- Shifts in ethnicity and age composition
There has been an enormous jump in America's population to over 281 million -- approximately 13 percent more than a decade ago. The greatest growth is coming from the 20-34 age segment, Gen X & Yers, now in their childbearing years. This means even swifter growth in population over the next 10-20 years with a boom in teens and young adults.
Overall, the new census data shows a nation that is less white, more ethnic, more urban and suburban and Sun-belt oriented. California leads the nation in total population at over 33 million residents. California's 30-year-old ethnic makeover hit a national benchmark -- it is now the first big state with no racial majority. In reality, California provides an early glimpse of America's future.
Diversification of family structures
The traditional family model has been replaced by diverse family structures. Over 34 percent of U.S. households have children under the age of 18. Some 59 percent of mothers with babies under the age of one now work -- almost double the percentage in 1976. For the first time ever in our society, the majority (51 percent ) of families have working moms and dads, making dual-earner couples the rule rather than the exception.
Time -- The new status symbol
It isn't hard to imagine -- seeing the predominance of dual-earner families, for example -- that time has become one of the most precious commodities in the lifestyles of the new millennium. Consumers are increasingly aware of making time for themselves, family and friends -- and they are looking for simple, easy products and services that allow them to do so. When asked about what they want in a vacation, for instance, "time with family" is at the top of the list of responses.
The abundance effect
Consumers now have access to resources that were once reserved for the elite: information, job options, marketplace options, products and services. This "abundance" of options at their disposal has created an affluent (whether real or perceived) attitude and this attitude has gone mainstream. Marketers must now play to heightened expectations and reinvent "exclusivity" for those consumers who are truly among the "elite."
The insiders edge
It's now easier than ever to access information, to have "the real scoop" -- exclusive, behind-the-scenes, heard-it-first knowledge about places, products and services. The savvy marketer will play up this need for the consumer to think that he "heard it first" and is the recipient of "inside information."
Faster pace of life
Consumers now live a faster paced lifestyle than ever before. Businesses run "7/24" and with wireless phones, e-mail, laptops and the Internet, the lines between "work time" and "personal time" have blurred. Now, more than ever, consumers feel the need to "get away from it all," to capture the peace and tranquility of the lifestyles of yesteryear. However, doing it is easier said than done, since the consumer does not have the time for the escape-planning process!
Dispensing with non-essentials and increased delegation
Time-strapped consumers are tossing out things that are superfluous, whether it is unread magazine subscriptions or multiple credit cards. Today's consumers are more open than ever to using consultants to help them shop for products or services. They are deciding what to keep in their lives, what to discard, and what to delegate to someone else to get the job done.
Understanding the lifestyle changes of the new consumer is key in determining how to approach selling your product or service. As the above trends demonstrate, today's consumer has more purchasing options than ever -- and less time to enjoy it all.
Now, more than ever before, marketers have to understand the individual need of the consumer and deliver customized, one-on-one solutions to his purchasing needs. In shaky economic times, this knowledge is more crucial than ever before to insure that your message does not fall on deaf -- or distracted -- ears.
Reinders is president and CEO of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau.