Perhaps it's the naturally reflective mood of the new year, but lately I've been working with a lot of brands on refreshing their corporate story. This, of course, necessitates a hard look into not just who they are – but who their target audience is too.

There are a million and one articles out there talking about crafting a brand story that connects with your audience, so customer-centricity is pretty much a given these days. But too often timelines and budgets dictate the understanding of that audience rely on historical and anecdotal data, at best. 

Disney's findings from recent research on how changes to modern family life have impacted their key audiences clearly indicate the value of taking the time to go a little deeper. As both a marketer and Disney's target audience, I greatly appreciate their investment.

While many of their assumptions may have been true 20 or maybe even 10 years ago, addressing parents across multiple diverse generations today requires more nuance. Attention to how mothers are portrayed on-screen has gained momentum at a far swifter pace than consideration of any dad-related stereotypes. And with increases in the age people are having children as well as greater gender equality and co-parenting approaches, the clueless dad character has become inaccurate and downright insulting.

I can relate, as too often have I been the default recipient of compliments on outfits my husband dressed the kids in or on a potluck contribution he cooked. So kudos to Disney for noticing his hard work. If only they could get changing stations put in men's public restrooms ...

But I digress. The point here is – audiences change over time. And if you don't notice and continue behaving as if they haven't, you're putting vital relationships at risk. 

So whether you're revisiting your brand narrative or simply drafting marketing messaging, take the time to do some first-hand research to check in on your audience. You can go big with a quantitative survey, or you can start small – but accurate – with a few direct interviews of current and former customers.

Either way, don't skip this step. You don't want to find out the hard way who you're alienating.