Demographer Compares Prospecting to Fishing

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NEW YORK -- The direct marketing list business is similar to fishing, according to yesterday's luncheon keynote speaker at the Direct Marketing Association's List Vision 2003 Conference at the Marriott Marquis.

"We've virtually fished out the Atlantic Ocean," said Peter Francese, founder of American Demographics Magazine and demographics trends analyst at Ogilvy & Mather. "It's like that in this industry."

He explained that when the fish population in the sea started waning, research was needed to replace and cultivate new populations in fish farms.

Though Francese did not suggest that direct marketers start farming prospects exactly, he did advocate fundamental research into consumers and what they want.

He also noted key demographic projections of which all DMers should be aware.

By 2008, the age group with the largest growth will be 55-64, Francese said. Half of all U.S. households will be 50 or older, presenting a huge opportunity for marketers. Though baby boomers may not buy a lot of stuff for themselves, they will buy for their grandchildren, he said.

As the population ages, Francese said, we may see declines in response rates for some consumer goods and a shift toward spending on services.

Women represent a savvy group of consumers, having received 58 percent of the bachelor's and master's degrees this year. As a result, women's salaries will rise faster than men's, Francese said. He cautioned that more highly educated women expect more as consumers.

More educated consumers also have a high probability of being Web-enabled at work and home, he said.

Still, he stressed the need to address consumers' privacy concerns.

"The American consumer is both schizophrenic and hypocritical," Francese said.

Consumers say they are concerned about privacy, then do something to contradict the statement, he said. But it still makes asking for sensitive data a challenge. However, there are things marketers can ask that are less sensitive than, say, someone's income, that can be just as telling, he said. Francese calls these things "markers."

"Income is less important than lifestyle and preferences," he said. Just knowing someone's education level and occupation can give a clear idea of their income range.

If asking less-sensitive questions yields similar results and makes consumers less uneasy, then that's what marketers should do, he said.

Prior to Francese's talk, the DMA's List & Database Council presented three rising list stars with the Ron Davis Young List Professional of the Year Award for 2003. The recipients were Tina Cavallo, list rental manager at Reader's Digest Association Inc.; Beth Leffel, account executive at Direct Media Inc.; and Sanja Vanjur, supervisor of brokerage services at D-J Associates.

The awards go to individuals with five years of service or less in the list industry. It was named for direct marketer Ron Davis, former director of list management at Meredith Corp., who died after a long battle with cancer. The award first was given in 1996.

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