Invisible Markets: The Hidden Path To Growth

Walker SmithJuly 9, 20203 min

If we’ve learned anything from the wrenching changes in society in recent years, it’s this: Business as usual is a losing proposition. The implications go well beyond culture—they hold profound meaning for commerce, as well.

In this era of slow growth, traditional segments are often too mature (and too hardened to marketing messages) to offer significant growth potential. Winning in new ways increasingly means unlocking demand in overlooked places.

The fact is, the market is filled with groups that actually want to hear more from brands. Moreover, they’re actually frustrated when brands don’t give them the attention and respect they deserve. And these groups include not just familiar ethnic or racial segments like African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics. They also include active-duty and military reserves, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ consumers. Even Millennials and Centennials often don’t believe brands properly serve them.

The level of frustration these groups share is the common thread among Invisible Markets. These groups may agree on little else, but they’re bound by an intense belief that they’re being overlooked and underappreciated by brands and businesses. The term Top-2 Box is marketing jargon for when people either “agree” or “strongly agree” with a statement, but what’s notable here is how much more likely these Invisible Markets are to “strongly agree” (Top Box). It’s not so much that these groups feel vaguely like an afterthought, but rather that they feel intensely so.

There’s good news for brands here. These markets are defined and knowable; they are existing opportunities that can be leveraged today. And they want brands to stand up for them and their communities. Matching this desire doesn’t require a complete retooling of your brand image to serve every non-major market out there. But it does require advocacy over apathy.

So it’s imperative to understand: Who are you missing?

Start by finding the groups that best fit with your business. It’s clear that there’s demand for new products, commercials and programs that better fit the needs of these segments. But to serve them, you need to know them. What do these people look like in the 99% of the time they aren’t interacting with your brand? What do they value? What attitudes and beliefs do they hold? What nuances stand out as points of differentiation?

But it’s not enough to create products and services to fulfill niche market needs. The new inclusivity mandate requires companies take a holistic approach to inclusion and diversity. In order to win in Invisible Markets, openness and respect for your markets must run through every aspect of your business—from marketing communications to product innovation to human resources and store design. This may seem like a tall order if you’re just starting to consider broadening your appeal to Invisible Markets. But the effort will be worth it: Studies show more inclusive brands outperform their peers in the marketplace.

Businesses that reach out to Invisible Markets can expect benefits beyond a bigger buyer base. They’ll also enjoy enhanced brand reputation and a future-focused corporate culture. As society edges ever closer to its majority-minority future, these companies will be prepared, knowing that the people building their brand will ideate and innovate like the people buying their brand.

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