Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Demographic Marketing is Such a Waste

A post at Adrants posed a fascinating point of marketing strategy: Should it be demographics or psychographics? Specifically, when selling to Boomers who are 55+. Do you target them by age or by lifestyle? If you have been reading this site for the past year, you know my answer.

Targeting by age (or by any demographic) is such a cop-out. Marketers routinely take the easy road to deliver lowest-common denominator messages.

Yes, we need to understand how to segment an audience, but to do this with a blunt instrument that assumes all people in a demographic are similar is yet one more example of traditional marketing that no longer works. Assuming those over 55 are suffering from a common lifestyle is nothing short of prejudice that is just as bad as racial or gender bias. But it seems hard to get marketers to stop this insanity.

I applaud Adrants for asking the right question – should we use demographics or psychographics when targeting and communicating with prospects?. Seth Godin calls it “worldview” and I would call it “contextual marketing.” Either way, it is far more important to target customers with similar interests, wants, needs and expectations and to cluster them accordingly.

Communicating to people who happen collectively to be 55+ cannot be done by simply showing a bunch of silver hair and wrinkles in your messages. Not that we can reach this demo by showing 35-year olds, but it has to go further. Much further.

Is this harder? Yes. But it is way, way more effective to conduct marketing that is targeted in this manner so that we create messages and offers that are actually appealing to those we want to persuade to take action.

We need to spend more time analyzing our data, listening to customers, evaluating what they are saying and then produce campaigns that are truly relevant. That's when we will discover the kinds of attributes that David Wolfe often writes about ... that Boomers are now interested in the meaning of life and specifically their own lives. Now that's an insight that marketers can work with to create relevance. Or the fact that Boomers were the driving force behind The Sensational Sixties ... and listen once again to music from the old days. We don't have to rub their faces in the fact that they are old, but we can relate to things that are important to them.

And with data-driven micro-segmenting, we can get ever closer to the interests and needs of people who share more of life than the age, or the race, or the gender. Micro-campaigning gets us closer and closer to relevance. This uses keen insights to improve search engine relevance, email, podcasting, blogging ... any form of direct or one-to-one persuasion.

The results will be several hundred percent better than traditional demographic marketing.

(Image from APOMOnline)


At 3:26 PM, Blogger Megan said...

Chuck Nygren's got some great thoughts on the subject...check out

At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Amanda Freind said...

What an interesting post. Interesting to me mainly because the marketing curriculum hasn't quite embraced the effectiveness of marketing to lifestyles and psychographic characteristics instead of creating messages for a large group of people who happen to share a common age range.
It seems that most marketing classes still seem to harp on the importance of demographic characteristics. Some PR survey research methods classes put a lot of emphasis on it as well.

Don't get me wrong. I think demographics can be quite helpful. They do give you a general understanding of what kind of audience you have on your hands. These characteristics can help you develop broad, general messages. But (in PR especially), we need to create messages for a specific audience that might be of the same age range, but not of the same lifestyle. Lumping everyone into the same category without further inspection of lifestyles, values, attitudes, etc. could cause your message/marketing idea to fail.

Sure, closer inspection of a particular age group makes the job a little harder and definitely more time consuming. But, after doing so, your message can be almost perfectly matched to a SPECIFIC audience, ensuring maximum effectiveness. Effective messages mean more money for a company. And we all know money makes everyone happy.

This idea of 'contextual marketing' and micro-segmenting is not only important for the 55+ age group, but also for many others as well. The 18-30-year-old demographic presents a large range of individuals from college students to young professionals and everyone in between.

So, maybe we should just take the extra time and hopefully make some extra money.


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