Market researchers generally shy away from politics. And controversial subjects. So writing about the political leanings of those who favor the legalization of marijuana in our country may be cutting edge (or just plain careless!).
In Colorado, however, cannabis is a legitimate business (assuming you are comfortable carrying around large amounts of cash). So the recent study by the Pew Research Center caught my eye. Cultural norms have changed so quickly in the past decade, and marketers must pay attention to these shifts in marketing demographics. Assumptions that Colorado having changed from a red state to a blue state in the 2008 and 2012 elections was the driver behind our first-in-the-nation legal pot over a year ago may not be what actually drove the change.
The statistics from Pew show that age connects with support for legalized marijuana much more closely than political leaning. Although views of Democrats in general are more favorable, 63% of Millennials (born 1981-1996) who identify as Republicans support legalized marijuana versus 61% of Democrat Generation X-ers (born 1965-1980). While there is definite concern about underage use, over three-fourths of Americans (76%) think that people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana should not have to serve time in jail. And overall Americans view alcohol as a bigger danger than marijuana.
Marketers Must Pay Attention to Shifts
This counter intuitive data points to the importance of shifts in views and how quickly they can happen. Research must be conducted with an open mind, whether on public policy issues that have spawned a whole new (legal) industry or on more mundane business issues.
I often tell my kids that it’s ok if they don’t know something, because we all learn something new every day. At least I do. If we only accept information that confirms what we already believe to be the truth, this confirmation bias can keep us in the dark. Possible new revenue streams, businesses that are soon to be stuck in a rut, or changes in marketing demographics that lead to the need for new products can all take us by surprise.
Where People Live Changing
Cities are back in the forefront with more affluence and job growth inside city limits than in suburbs. Since suburbs have less population density, this shift in wealth may lead to more far-flung poorer sections of the country and glittering cities in the middle, more of the European model.
A visit to IKEA and the small, detailed product designs shown in its 380 square foot fully-furnished apartments gives hints at the direction US cities, and the products to furnish them, might take. Marketers will need to take into account these physical shifts.
Generation Z wasn’t included in the Pew study, but they are the next generation of college students. These digital natives are growing up with less physical fitness, more technology, more diversity and less stable families. The shifts their original perspectives and growing influence will bring must be welcomed, and understood, by marketers.
Someone wise once told me that life is a series of plateaus interspersed with periods of intense change. As marketers we must seek understand of the coming changes to build our businesses on the next plateaus.
Jennifer Cooper, President of BuyerSynthesis,helps established and emerging brands grow revenues by better understanding their buyers.