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Meet HENRY: The Consumer Audience You Can’t Ignore

Advertising Agency
New York, USA
INFLUENCER: Havas Formula's Taryn Finley on why today’s brands should incorporate the 'high earner, not rich yet' consumer in their marketing efforts

In the marketing world, it’s hard to escape the recent headlines touting the newly defined 'Xennial' consumer (upper-end millennial). Personally, I couldn’t be more eager to ditch the stereotype of a millennial; the only trophies I received growing up were those earned for top performance. While I embrace the category distinction of Xennials, I find it somewhat misleading for today’s consumer brands seeking actionable takeaways to guide their marketing.

The latest media blitz suggests that the idea of a subcategory within the broader millennial generation is a relatively new concept. This isn’t the case. Allow me to introduce you to HENRY, the 'high earner, not rich yet' consumer. HENRY has coasted somewhat under the mainstream radar (per the blank stares I get during strategic audience segmentation sessions), yet HENRY is no stranger to your brand or today’s marketplace.

To help you get acquainted, the term first surfaced in 2003 as marketing jargon to identify consumers with an average household income of $100,000 to $250,000, and investable assets less than $1 million. Proving the stickiness of this segment among marketers, the industry was still buzzing more than a decade later: In 2015, HENRY was lauded as the “gatekeeper to the luxury market,” and retailers dubbed HENRY the “next high value consumer demographic.” This makes sense. We all have to start somewhere and the path to affluence likely begins for most as HENRY.

Regardless of the history and following multi-year conversation, HENRY remains a relevant and viable target today; one you would be remiss to overlook as a marketer. In fact, HENRYs cross generational borders, but increasingly their numbers include millennials (or Xennials). First defined by their high-income bracket, current HENRYs are 28 to 40 years old and represent a sub-segment comprised of both upper spectrum millennials (the new Xennials) and latter-end Gen Xers.

Here are five reasons why today’s brands should incorporate HENRY in go-forward marketing efforts:

1. Brand loyalty – HENRYs are willing to spend when a brand elevates their lifestyle. For them, value drives purchase and the currency is benefits versus price tag. HENRYs are ripe targets for brands working hard to deliver experiences versus just a product. That experience-driven badge value breeds loyalty among consumers who are willing to invest.

2. Economic heavy lifters – Industry chatter suggests HENRY emerged when the middle class faced a shortage in discretionary spending coming out of the recession. Regardless of the how and why, HENRY remains a significant economic contributor with high spending power and more discretionary resources than the middle class.

3. Power in numbers – HENRYs are more prevalent than you may think. In 2012, reports indicated 20 percent of Americans are HENRYs. More recent numbers are even more compelling, with HENRYs representing 90 percent of today’s affluent consumers. Move aside Yuppies and Dinks (double income, no kids).

4. Not just luxury seekers – A common misperception of HENRYs is that they’re only relevant to luxury brands. While HENRYs can afford luxury brands with their high income, they’re also swayed by more mass market brands that enable them to quickly adopt what’s trending. That lifestyle proposition and associated benefits (see #1) cannot be underestimated and thus expands HENRY’s market relevance well beyond the niche luxury industry. If you work for an unknown or emerging brand or mass market player, HENRY should still be a consideration. Revisit brand narratives in order to speak to quality and authenticity as well as social currency; all things that attract today’s HENRY.

5. Highly influential – HENRYS are highly educated and socially connected; often viewed as taste-makers within their social circles. As an influential subgroup, they offer not only significant financial authority in the marketplace, but also can be as impactful among their peers as a brand-courted third-party endorser. The opportunity for brands is how to capitalise on their authentic word of mouth, thus empowering HENRYs to act as an influencer in their own right.

If your brand wants to tap into this vibrant consumer and associated buying power, it may mean refining your primary (and secondary) audience targets to make room for HENRY. Instead of casting wide brush strokes, embrace an open dialogue with your marketing partners around the nuances of this specific sub-segment. Throughout my PR career, I have always encouraged clients to flip around the expected question of “Why should I do X?” to its often more revealing antithesis: “What’s at risk if I don’t do X?” When it comes to audience prioritisation, the answer couldn’t be clearer: HENRYs represent 40 percent of all U.S. spending. How long will your brand leave that market (and mind) share on the table?

Taryn (Unruh) Finley, vice president of Havas Formula’s Los Angeles division, is a creative, results-oriented public relations professional with proven success in developing marketing strategies that strengthen brand reputation, awareness and the bottom line. With more than a decade of experience, Finley brings a hybrid of agency and in-house expertise across B-to-C and B-to-B brands, including Avid, P&G, Dunkin’ Donuts, Panda Express, Yelp, Zoosk, Sling Media and Qualcomm, among others.

Taryn Finley is vice president of Havas Formula’s Los Angeles division

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