What's hot doesn't have much to do with what excites you-it's what's hot to your market that matters. Here's a look at the most influential markets for 1997 and beyond:
- Homebased businesses: Homebased business owners-31 million strong-are evolving comfortably into cutting-edge technology users. In five years, home workers, who already drive the home PC movement and comprise 63 percent of all U.S. adult Internet users, will see "intelligence built into every device," says Tom Miller of research firm Find/SVP. "The Web TV is already out there, as is the network PC." With voice modems (making it possible to speak and send data over the same standard telephone line) and Internet-ready phones (which allow you to browse the Web from a screen on your phone) soon to follow, Miller foresees the isolated home worker of the late '80s morphing into the network-happy worker of the late '90s.
- Rural: This long-ignored market is gaining new respect. Today's rural consumer is more likely to be "sophisticated, smart and formerly urban," says Jon Bard, author of audiotape set Escape! How to Quit the Rat Race, Move to the Boonies & Make a Great Living . . . By Someone Who Has! (Two Mile High Press). "These aren't a bunch of hayseeds."
Large companies are starting to look at rural towns not as secondary markets but as sales leaders. Staples, for one, reports sales per store in small markets now exceed those in the average urban store-and it plans to make these markets a priority. How to market to rural dwellers? "These customers are straight-talking and want to know what this item will do for them," says Bard. "They're more interested in quality and convenience than in price."
- Juvenile: The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) reports increased sales of juvenile products last year. "There were a record number of first births," explains William L. MacMillan, JPMA president. "And new products are being devised that we never thought of before."
Out of the crib and into the marketplace, kids have clout of their own, buying or influencing almost $150 billion in purchases annually. Another reason to drool over this market: Studies show brand loyalty is determined by age 11.
- Teens: A teen and his money are soon parted. Teen spending has increased every year since 1993, and more of the money now comes from their own pockets. U.S. teens last year had a combined income of $102 billion, reports Teenage Research Unlimited-and spent 84 cents of every dollar they earned. Thirty-seven percent of 18- and 19-year-olds have credit cards in their own names; Young Americans Bank in Denver even offers teens loans.
And they're not just spending more; there are also more of them. The 12-to- 19-year-old population hit 29.1 million in 1995 and will keep growing until at least 2010, when it is expected reach 35 million.
What are this hot market's interests? Many teens watch up to four hours of television daily (including shows just for them, such as this season's "Clueless" sitcom, pictured at left), love their cars, and love brand names. They also respond to marketers who don't stereotype them. That's why smart marketers hit the streets and schools to observe teens firsthand.
"Teens share the key motivations of many generations: belonging, acceptance and affiliation," says Peter Zollo, president of Teenage Research Unlimited. "If you can develop products or messages that give them this, they'll relate to you."