For decades now, marketers have been mostly dependent upon large-scale demographic segmentation, using broad demographics such as age and gender. However, as the quantity and level of data available to us expands, should we still be reliant upon such broad strokes?
Primarily the answer is no, but that doesn’t mean that demographics have lost their use entirely.
Traditionally, marketers have made sweeping assumptions about groups within society. For example, if you want to target something at men you market it in one way, making use of ‘masculine’ colours and themes and relying on the assumption that this will appeal to the majority of your target audience.
For traditional media and products such as cars or razors, perhaps this did prove to be a largely successful strategy.
Now though, the age-old divisions that have been drawn through society are shifting and eroding; people are increasingly less constrained by societal expectations based upon age and sex in particular.
Coupled with this is the increasingly diversifying market. With more and more products and options, meaning that hitting the right audience can be more difficult.
As well as this, for smaller companies with tighter marketing budgets. Spending vast amounts on broad campaigns that hit a large audience but have a relatively low conversion rate isn’t exactly good ROI.
One of the worst examples of this broad-spectrum demographics is the use of the term ‘millennials'. In the traditional marketer’s brain; the elusive millennial is in their 20s, focussed on environmental, and social issues and fuelled by coffee.
What you’re left with after this very stereotypical description is simply a picture of a young person; these traits aren’t specific to this generation of youth. The generation before will have been mostly the same when they were in their 20s.
Granted, society does evolve. With this generation’s 20 some things are more concerned with environmental and social issues. For example, as they become more prevalent, the basis is the same as far as marketers are concerned.
The targeting of ‘millennials’ as some distinct group that are so different from the rest of humanity is dangerous as far as marketing strategies go. By targeting such a broad group of people and ignoring their individual preferences, marketers can miss the mark entirely and alienate people.
The real clincher is that 20 somethings don’t actually have any money to spend. By targeting the younger generation and ignoring the older, who are the ones with the disposable income. Marketers frequently blow budgets on people who often cannot afford to make purchases outside of the essentials.
“Within each generation, there are wide divisions in politics, culture and taste – and across generations, there are attitudes that bridge young and old together. Treating the attitudes typically associated with terms like millennial or ‘Gen Xer’ as belonging strictly to one age range shows a lack of awareness of who people really are and how they really behave.” says Managing director Andrew Mulholland.
“In particular, we need to move past the recent trend of millennial fever. Where appealing to a ‘millennial audience’ has become lazy, if convenient, shorthand for some vague notion of achingly cool, social media-savvy 20 somethings who refuse stable careers and demand authenticity.”
Phasing out of broad demographic segmentation does mean, however, that a new method of market division needs to be formulated. Thankfully, there is one already in use.
The future and indeed present of intelligent marketing are based on data-driven, behaviourally influenced groupings. Information gathered covers elements such as how engaged with technology individuals are, what sites they use and previous purchases.
This is a more reliable method of targeting as it is grounded in the reality of how individuals behave, not what sex they were born, their age or where they live.
Precise and tailored targeting has already been proven to yield better results and using the web as a marketing tool. In particular, it is vastly cheaper than traditional mass-spectrum methods.
The long-term answer, however, is one of evolution rather than revolution. For many marketers, moving away from demographics entirely would be harmful. They can still make a solid basis for a campaign in many cases, providing intelligence and a touch of behavioural data are applied.
The future then is an issue of applying intelligence to marketing campaigns, avoiding broad assumptions where possible, making use of all of the information available to you and above all, know your market.
To find out more about how an effective and up-to-date marketing strategy could help grow your business, get in touch today.