I talked to a consumer goods exec the other day who said they spent a fortune on a customer segmentation that was done in February. Talk about horrendous luck.

For those of you not steeped in research geekdom, a “segmentation” is a mechanism by which companies slice and dice the population into various buckets for marketing strategy, ad targeting, and the like. Typically, the exercise isolates a handful of cohorts based on their demographics, lifestyle, and behaviors then gives them cute names like Silver Adventurers or Henry (“High Earner, Not Rich Yet”).

Segmentations usually cost a boatload, like two-commas big, and take many weeks or even months to complete. Then, the hard work starts – trying to convince an entire organization to adopt a common vocabulary and discipline. That can often take many months more, if the people who champion the effort aren’t reorg-ed out of their jobs by then.

Here’s the real rub. In today’s crazy world, a segmentation is stale, if not useless, by the time you can spell the word segmentation. Everything is changing too fast. I wouldn’t use data from February if it came with a case of hand sanitizer.

Since March, I’ve become obsessed with learning the guitar, lost 20 pounds, stopped traveling, and haven’t watched a single sporting event except golf, when that used to be all I watched. Instead, Tara and I finally started Game of Thrones – were about halfway through. None of that was true even 3 months ago.

We’ve all changed in ways we realize and ways we don’t. Choosy moms started feeding their kids canned soup again. Urbanites who never dreamt about camping or kayaking have cleaned out Cabela’s. Perhaps that’s why country music popularity has increased steadily since spring.

Did you know favorability toward Chick-fil-A among Gen Z has fallen from 76% to 56% since before the pandemic? Twenty full percentage points. That’s crazy.

The only thing that hasn’t changed about most of us is our political persuasion. That may have only calcified.

But this isn’t only about COVID and social unrest. Everything changes, constantly. Imagine if you ran an expensive media segmentation a week before Disney+ or TikTok came out. Looking ahead, things will be highly variable based on whether kids go back to school or if a NFL season happens (or not). Don’t get me started on the election. It’s all related.

If you think you know someone today, there’s little reason to assume you’ll know them tomorrow. Sorry to break it to you.

You’re going to be outhustled.

Here’s what were seeing this week:

Back to Gen Z, they are not to be trifled with. We published this study a few weeks ago and I forgot to mention it, which is malpractice on my part because it’s super-important. While their Millennial forebearers ultimately came of age with a self-indulgent whimper, Zs are turning out to be a vigilant, mobilized, and unforgiving juggernaut. Even before wrecking the President’s Tulsa rally, they had already begun using quarantine to get healthier and smarter. They see most “socially-conscious” brands as inauthentic. Their values run deeper than that. And those values are skewing further and further Left by the minute.


While were on the subject of politics, I share this without commentary:

If you want to see a segment of consumers that has changed radically since COVID started, just look at Amtrak. Given its prevalence in densely-populated areas, it’s no surprise that train ridership traditionally skews more urban, Democrat, and minority than the general U.S. population. The challenge for companies like Amtrak, however, is those are often the same consumers who are more cautious about everything during the pandemic. Today’s Amtrak-intender is now more male and politically conservative – if only by process of elimination. That and a lot more about train travel in this study.

The profile of restaurant diners is changing in myriad ways as well. The percentage of Americans who reported dining out or ordering takeout / delivery reached levels this week we haven’t seen for months. Outdoor options have definitely been a boost. But the underlying demographics tell a more nuanced story. Women are driving the bulk of takeout and delivery orders, while men are more likely to dine out. Higher income is also a strong predictor of people who are comfortable eating in a restaurant – and particularly people whose jobs haven’t been affected by the pandemic. The remote working crew are much less likely to venture out to eat. Food service marketers, take note.

Parents are freaking out about sending their kids back to school. Compared to the somewhat docile numbers we saw about college kids last week, moms and dads of K-12 kids are getting more worried the closer we get to the first day of school. And it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Not only are parents significantly less comfortable putting their children back in a classroom, they’re even more concerned about them falling behind because of online learning. It explains the rising appeal of “pandemic pods” where kids learn in groups at home. What a mess.

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Parents of school-age children are super-busy, it turns out. We did a deep dive into the modern-day, COVID-burdened parent this week and confirmed most of what you’d expect and then some. We over-index in most areas of technology usage, social media usage, and streaming. We cook more and follow food trends more. We write more product reviews – good and bad – than other consumers. The only thing we do much less than average is watch the news. Oh, and we suck at managing money apparently. Because who has the time to keep up with that?

A couple other studies from the past week:

These were our most popular new questions this week:

Answer Key: Absolutely; Nope; Meh; Never; All of the Above; 82.

(Programming note: Were packing up the family truckster today to visit Tara’s family in Minnesota, so I may not write next week. And I’ll probably put those 20lbs back on).


Hoping you’re well.