There’s no such thing as an average customer. 

For those of you who work in brand marketing, you need to burn that sentence into your brain. 

I can’t tell you how often I hear those words. Or how much it makes me cringe.  

A couple weeks ago, a national chain restaurant executive was telling me that their “average customer” makes $75,000 per year. Something didn’t seem right about that, so I did some digging (we track the brand in question and have about a half million of their customers in our database). Sure enough, she was right, mathematically speaking. But not really.

Thirty-one percent of their customers make over $100k/year, 35% make less than $50k. When I dug deeper, this particular brand has a handful of distinct customer groups…more affluent people in suburban areas and lower-income people in urban and rural areas, respectively. Indeed, it all averages out to $75k. 

But hardly any of their customers make $75k per year. Incidentally, it’s a reminder that we continue to disintegrate any semblance of a middle class in America.  

Talking about average income is like saying, “My average customer is lightly tan-skinned.” Or, “My average customer is androgynous.” It doesn’t work.    

If you build a brand, products, pricing, and advertising for your “average” customer, you risk missing or even alienating the majority. At minimum, that’s no way to build loyalty. Nobody thinks of themselves as average – or at least they shouldn’t – so you shouldn’t either.

But what do you do? The knee-jerk answer is “personalization,” but that quickly devolves into the super-creepy stuff that happens when marketers spy. 

People are also changing too quickly. I’m not the same person I was before I traveled to Europe last week. I learned new things, developed new tastes. I’m certainly not the same person I was before COVID.  

Hell, I’m not even the same person I was yesterday. Saturday Me is different from Friday Me, if only slightly more hungover. You’ll never know everything about me in real-time. 

The only thing you can control – Mrs. and Mr. Brand – is who you are, what you stand for, and what value and experience you create. If it appeals to me, in the moment and the context when I cross your path, congratulations. You win. 

Aiming for the averages is lazy, disingenuous, and destined to fail. Knock it off. 

You’re smarter than that, more ambitious than that, more sincere than that.

And you, my friends, are definitely not average.

Here’s what we’re seeing: 

Consumer confidence is anything but. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, our Economic Sentiment Index set a new 10-year record for futility, compounded by one of the steepest two-week drops we’ve ever seen. Evidently, recession fears have entered the mainstream, as 6-month optimism for the U.S. economy plummeted a staggering 6+ points (take note, holiday retailers). The only component that fared worse was confidence in personal finances, marking the first time in four months that it wasn’t the best-performing indicator in the index. There’s nothing good to say, whatsoever.    

As inflation and gas price concerns reach record heights, so does the blame for President Biden. A whopping 93% of U.S. adults are at least somewhat concerned about inflation, with nearly two-thirds saying they’re “very concerned.” The numbers for gas prices are even worse. Future outlook is sour too, as people expect to spend even more on groceries and household items in the coming month, while cutting back in areas like clothing and dining out. All the while, people expect their savings to continue dwindling as a result. When asked what they believe is the biggest cause for these financial headwinds, 41% – the largest group by far – blame the Biden Administration. Thirty-three percent blame the pandemic (the right answer) and/or the war in Ukraine. Fifteen percent blame retailers and brands. Huh?

The popularity of sustainable fashion is shrinking in the face of inflation. I mentioned this general theme a few weeks ago. Namely, that intrinsic consumer motives – the environment, DE&I, etc. – wane when economic concerns rise. That’s happening in spades right now. People are simply less likely to spend more on goods and services, particularly apparel, even to support causes they care about. One group breaks the mold, however: Gen Z and younger Millennials. Our enlightened young adults aren’t flinching in their moral convictions, even if it means eating ramen every day and biking to work.

Cord-cutting has surged dramatically in the past three months. Undoubtedly related to the economic climate, the percentage of Americans who dropped their cable and satellite service has climbed steadily since March, surpassing 50% for the first time. The largest group – 63% – attribute the decision to the high costs of linear pay TV. Gen Z adults and young Millennials are the most likely to say they did it because they prefer the content on streaming services. What’s remarkable is that 23% of U.S. adults say they are actively considering the snip. This shift isn’t over by a longshot. 


On the 50th anniversary of Title IX, women’s sports are more popular than ever among younger Americans. Maybe I should explain Title IX, given that nearly half of U.S. adults say they don’t know what it is. But I have faith in you, dearest readers, to either already know or take the time to read about it yourself. What I will tell you is that women’s professional sports – especially soccer and basketball – are enjoying growth in popularity among Gen Z and women that is historically unprecedented. Men watch women’s sports too, but they’re more partial to golf and mixed martial arts, because of course they are.


A couple more studies this week:

The most popular new questions:

Answer Key:  Way, way more; Perpetually; Audio; Haha, my kids will love this one – I do it all the time; Yes. Dishes. Monday-Sunday; Gas.

Hoping you’re well.


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