Targeting the Affluent Customer

May 13, 2021
3 min read

Developing marketing strategies for clients across various industries, from travel destinations to complex financial products, I’ve learned that it is often the affluent customer that brands are eager to reach rather than more traditional targets like “avid travelers” or “Financial Advisors”. Affluent customers can be defined fairly broadly as individuals with liquid assets of $150,000-1,000,0000, plus a household income (HHI) of $70,000+. In the United States, that accounts for approximately 33 million households. The challenge of defining an affluent customer simply by their HHI is that depending on a handful of other factors - like where they live, their marital status, and family structure - gross income can do little in explaining how much disposable income one has to spend on products and services like vacations, luxury goods, and investment vehicles. 

So, the first step to navigating affluent customers is to define them better. Instead of setting a blanket HHI layer on your media target, combine HHI and geography. Both are simple data points that won’t drive your CPM costs higher than is worth investing in. Since HHI is still the most straightforward data source for defining affluence- in the New York Metro area, I would set my media targets as NYCMetro & HHI $175,000+ whereas in Indianapolis I would set my media targets IndyMetro & HHI $70,000+. This is not as much of a science as it is an art. Customer studies and media effectiveness data will help you to refine and hone in on what makes most sense for your product but adding the coupling of location and HHI will already set you on a path of being more precise. 

Once you’ve reached the affluent customer, it’s important for your message to speak to their mindset and unique needs. The affluent customer is not the ultra-wealthy. They have disposable income but they still have concerns about paying for their kids' college education and are thinking about how they can retire comfortably. That said, they do have money to spend on experiences and products that excite them. It’s important to inspire the affluent customer. Give them a reason to spend their money on what you have to offer. Don’t be afraid to speak to the value that your product or service offers, both from the perspective of experience but also price. Compared to a lower income target audience - that might put value relative to price at the top of the messaging hierarchy - for the affluent customer it can be lower on the list, but it shouldn’t disappear altogether.

It should go without saying, but it is worth mentioning - as much as brands are always hoping to target affluence under the false premise that they will be an easier sale (given they have more disposable income), you should always target the audience that your product or service best serves. Just because someone has more money to spend on your product does not mean it makes sense for them. And just because someone has less to spend, doesn’t mean your product or service isn’t perfect for their needs and is worth it to them. This is why we always recommend testing HHI, more traditional interest targeting, and contextual alignment in any marketing strategy. 

Last but not least, converting the affluent customer is not always easier than converting any other customer. Don’t falter on your customer journey and assume that the path to purchase will be shorter just because someone has more money. Marketing fundamentals still apply: build awareness and a relationship with your customer before you expect them to click the “buy” button.

© 2024 Soubriet Byrne & Associates, Inc.