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Consumer Report

If you think you know your target market, think again.

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This story appears in the May 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

He was Joe Average; she was Jane Doe. They lived in a traditional nuclear family and watched "Laverne & Shirley" for laughs. They thought disco was hip and computers were for nerds. And they believed there was such a thing as the right brand of dishwashing liquid or the correct kind of car. They were typical American consumers--and back in 1977, the world of business still believed in them.

But a funny thing happened on the way to 1997. We discovered we were not a nation of typical citizens with common market needs and a one-size-fits-all identity. We were large-sized women and single dads, ethnic minorities, yuppies and slackers, affluent seniors, savvy teens, gourmet coffee drinkers, self-made millionaires and burnouts seeking lives of voluntary simplicity. Instead of assuming that one "head of household"--presumably a man--was calling all the shots on purchases, businesses learned to recognize the considerable economic muscle of women and children.

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