By Matthew Stanton, Metromemetics
(first posted 01/14/2001; revised 01/20/2003)
Although no one person will fit the following description exactly, the following character guidelines are helpful for creating a realistic “Everyman” which might be found in somewhere in America around the turn of the millennium. Marketing professionals spend thousands of hours and billions of dollars a year to keep track of the following description in order to help investors decide what products and services should be developed and sold.
GENDER AND RACE: The Average American has an equal chance of being a man or woman, will be about 40 years old, and is 75% likely to be considered a non-Hispanic white Christian. (If a member of a racial minority, person has 45% chance of being Hispanic, 45% chance of being black, 8% of being Asian, and 2% chance of being a Native American Indian.) About 1 in 10 Americans were foreign-born, most likely in Mexico.
FAMILY: The Average American also is 50% likely to be married and live with his or her spouse. Whether married or not, the Average American Couple has a 70% chance of having two children in their early teens. The family owns either a cat or a dog, and each adult member of the family has their own vehicle.
SCHOOL AND WORK: The Average American graduated from high school about 20 years ago, can read and write English well and is 25% likely to have a bachelors degree. The American household earns about $45,000 a year in 1995 dollars (of which a third was taken by the government for taxes). The company which employees the American wage-earners is not small – its annual receipts are more than $500,000 a year, often many times that figure.
CITY LIVING: Although a quarter of all Americans live in rural areas, 75% live within a few minutes drive of a major metropolitan area such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston or Philadelphia.
GADGETS: Every American owns a series of household electronic devices – a refrigerator, a stove, a microwave, a telephone, a television, a VCR. About half of the households also have a personal computer, and half of all those computers are used to connect to the Internet several times a week to check e-mail and “surf” the World Wide Web.
ME, ME, ME: Although Average Americans don’t seem overly selfish, in a single day two-thirds of the 4,800 words spoken by each American will be about themselves.
CONFORMITY: When asked to hold up three fingers on their writing hand, Average Americans hold up all but the thumb and little finger. When asked to name a color, Average Americans say “red.” When asked to name a flower, they say “rose.” When asked to name a piece of furniture they say “chair.” When asked to pick a number between one and ten they usually go with “seven.”
MEDIA: On a consumer level, given the choice between spending more time or spending more money, Americans choose to spend the time – and as a result, American mass media is cheap but filled with advertising interruptions. The American watches 8 hours of television a week, but only subscribes or buys a newspaper half the time.
FREEDOMS: The Average American claims to be very patriotic and loves democracy but doesn’t vote in elections and can only name both of his or her home state’s senators in Congress about half the time.
Source: U.S. Census