From Mass Affluence to Class Affluence

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From Mass Affluence to Class Affluence

There used to be a segment of the population called the "Mass Affluent." They were a dream target for marketers, manufacturers, and service providers. This segment had a decent annual household income range of $100,000 to $200,000. But what also fueled their spending, even enabling them to live above their incomes, was the ability to tap into free-flowing consumer credit and growing home equity. They felt and acted wealthy, creating a large demand for goods and services — most notably luxury products.

In a recent study titled, Affluence in America: The New Consumer Landscape,1 author George Scribner, senior vice president of Digitas, outlines the rise and fall of the Mass Affluent. Scribner suggests this segment began to grow in the 1970s, becoming the highest tier of the mass market. It is his belief that they influenced "companies like WalMart to creep upwards into organics, Starbucks to make the $3 latte an everyday occurrence, and Mercedes to create the C-class to stretch into a lower price point and larger customer base."

Then the recession hit, and the Mass Affluent lost their leveraging power and, in many cases, their income levels. As a result, they were reduced to what they really were all along: middle class. In this downward shift, we've increasingly had to deal with a term that was missing for a while: frugality.

This disappearance of the Mass Affluent segment challenges advertisers and marketers to reassess their strategies in a landscape of changing spending habits. The Affluence in America study identified five lifestyle segments that have taken up the baton of the affluent over the past three years or so:

The complete findings of the Affluence in America study by Digitas are available in an Ad Age Insights whitepaper entitled, “The New Wave of Affluence.”

The complete findings of the Affluence in America study by Digitas are available in an Ad Age Insights whitepaper entitled, “The New Wave of Affluence.”

  1. The "Aspiring Affluent" have a household income of $100,000 to $199,000. They are 35 years old or older, and made up of roughly 9 million Gen Xers and 18 million Baby Boomers...

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