Marketers, Don’t Be Deceived by Demographics

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At this very moment, a client is handing its agency reams of reports to brief them on a new product. The target audience is described in detail. Be they Millennials, Baby Boomers, or a segment with a catchier name, say Alpha Moms, chances are if you showed the description to the target they wouldn’t recognize themselves.

Recently we conducted such an experiment. We handed a commonly used description of Millennials to a group Millennials. Although elements of it rang true, they didn’t think it accurately described them.  They felt you might as well be describing a stranger.

Why is there such a disconnect between the way marketers see consumers and the way consumers see themselves? In part the problem lies in over reliance on demographic segmentation. Demographics can be misleading. Taken literally, they create stereotypes and oversimplified caricatures of people.

Here’s an example from the insurance industry. According to conventional wisdom, a life insurance or P&C marketer would have a tough time selling Millennials. After all they are living in their parent’s basement, don’t want to own anything, are averse to marriage and will only respond to a marketing offer if it comes wrapped in a clever social media campaign. The reality is 70% of adult Millennials are living on their own, 40% have children and collectively they account for 27% of all new car sales. Even more surprising, 57% have made a purchase using old fashioned direct mail.

So what does all this mean for marketers? Demographic segment descriptions are oversimplified assumptions which can be misleading. If you take them too literally, you will miss out on hidden opportunities. People are much more complex than their age and income and without deep insight into what drives them, you might as well be talking to strangers. Worse still, the results will be disappointing. When people don’t identify with your message, they tune you out.

At Bodden Partners, we use a different approach. Instead of relying on stereotypes and assumptions, we conduct in-depth, one-on-one listening sessions with customers and potential buyers about their needs, attitudes and reactions to a particular offering. Then we play it back in the marketing. Consumers can’t help but identify with the message because it came from them to start with. We’ve engineered this process to cost no more than a typical focus group. If you have a segment or problem that you’re struggling with, contact us today for a free consultation.

To learn more about our how our process can help improve your results download our latest ebook entitled Do You Ever Feel Like You’re Talking to Strangers?