The Death of Traditional Demographics

Caitlin Thomas looks at the rise of Big Data in Media and Advertising agency’s strategy and evaluation.

As a brand, to flourish in today’s marketplace, you need to understand that the ‘typical consumer’ is no longer typical! And furthermore, will not just slot right into the traditional marketing model of demographics. With the help of technology, consumers have access to multiple touch-points to gain knowledge and interact with brands, they have obtained an element of control. Take away the age, race and sex and focus predominately on the personality of the target market and you will see that the use of traditional demographics is no longer relevant in today’s society.

When you hear the word ‘Demographic’, it will usually be accompanied by a few other ‘graphics’, one of which I believe is the most important tool for uncovering the target market and that is ‘Psychographic’. This segment should be embraced now more than ever. Why? Simply put, the world has changed, and the way consumers categorise themselves is beyond the outdated model. With an abundance of new ways to identify ourselves, marketing to a target audience has progressed far beyond predicting what a ’25-35-year-old Australian Female’ will buy or how they will interact with a brand, as today, the social norms that predicted the purchasing behaviours of these targeted groups are fading away. Right now, it is all about diversifying these stereotyped groups and focusing on the interests of individuals.

Even the word ‘individuals’ should provide an insight of why brands need to focus on the behaviours and interests over age and sex. An example of the various types of individuals and the declining usefulness of demographics comes from the globally launched, paid streaming service, Netflix. The VP of Product Innovation over at Netflix shared some insight into consumer behaviour at the 2015 SWSX Festival, claiming that demographics are ‘almost useless’ at predicting what Netflix users will watch. “What we’ve learned over time is: it’s not who they are in a superficial sense – like gender, age, even geography. It’s not even what they tell you. It’s what they do. There are actually 19-year-old guys who watch Dance Moms, and there are 73-year-old women who are watching Breaking Bad and Avengers.” You see, it’s no longer about at what age will somebody buy a product, of what race, financial status or level of education will a product interest the most but about the personality and preference of the person, the individual.

This is not the end of the world for brands, no need to restructure a marketing model or drastically forego demographics but instead, focus on the kind of people you want consuming the brands products and interacting with the brand. Brands can still, of course, have their ‘golden target’ with an ideal age bracket, gender etc. The only difference is that the traditional marketing model just won’t cut it with the individuals present in today’s society. A good way to think of how consumers and brands interact can be viewed similarly to how people interact with one another. This form of communication and connection has always been unique, our friendships and relationships are chosen on compatibility so why should that be any different between brands and consumers?

‘Who’ are the consumers in terms of biology and financial status is less important, ‘who’ they are psychologically is the question needing to be asked and answered to effectively speak to the target audience, to best reach consumers, connect and create relationships between the brand and audience as to allow for consistent product recall, brand trust and brand loyalty.

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