Baby boomers are redefining the concept of getting old, he explains, which has significant impact on not only the products
and services companies develop, but also on the method and creative approach used to sell them.
In addition, more than 50 percent of households now contain single people, and not necessarily single-parent living situations. While the percentage of married households should remain steady at around 50 percent for some time, Smith points out that direct marketers seem to be struggling with this move away from a more traditional household composition.
Perhaps the most radical influence on direct marketing—actually, on all business—is the fading away of a mainstream culture as defined by one majority race or ethnicity. Instead, says Smith, cultures will blend and create a variety of tastes and preferences that are not based on ethnicity.
The overall effect of these trends is the creation of a "consumer who has a strong sense of self-invention and who claims the right to be different," Smith explains. And when you combine this diversity with technology—media, information, medical, marketing—it not only affects the groups that marketers target, but also people's expectations, he adds.
Consumers now expect marketers to pay attention to their attitudes and provide them with relevant offers. This means demographics are not the catalyst they once were for audience knowledge.
In fact, Smith predicts the advance of more addressable media, such as targeted television and mobile messaging, will fall short of both marketers' and consumers' expectations if companies don't develop addressable attitudes—basically attitudinal research tracked back to specific customers.
Beyond psychographics, attitudes better reflect how people define themselves and thus are motivated to make a purchase, switch service providers, etc.
"Most companies find that the core attitudes that motivate purchase or response in their category are pretty much set," says Smith. The real challenge lies in branching out from this core with original data collection and data analysis, such as scoring, to identify other key attitudes across bigger populations.