Demographics are Dead.

It’s clear to see that age and gender are not what defines people in the 21st century. In an age of non-binary gender, people defying their age and gender stereotypes, and promoting equality in age and gender, why are marketers still using age, gender and marital status to segment their data and quantify success? Simply because it’s easier to quantify. This is not target marketing. This is lazy.

A potential customer’s age and gender are not linked to their interests, experience, or whether your product or service might be marketable to them. A customer is more likely to purchase a product or service based on their interest, experiences or a problem that needs to be solved, not their age or gender. I would buy a nail file because I need to file my nails, not because I’m a C1 unmarried woman aged 25-35.

This is not to say that marketers, customers and everyone else should be ‘ashamed’ of their gender and age, but that they are not defined by these traits. The days of demographic criteria are behind us, replaced with true personalised marketing, using behavioural, psychographic and, where relevant, geographic criteria.

If we look to the future, using sci-fi movies and TV programmes as reference (what else?), we can see that the future of marketing is personalisation down to the individual, as in the film Minority Report (awesome film, by the way). Flash back to now, and we have advertisements changing depending on who is looking at them (Digiday.com), emails sent as soon as products are thought to run out and products delivered almost instantly. We’re almost there.

Pictured: Still from Minority Report (2002), showing personalised advertisements

Pictured: Still from Minority Report (2002), showing personalised advertisements

I recently attended a talk at the Bath Digital Festival (which, for the most part, was interesting and full of practical advice - highly recommended!) about personal data, which I thought would be a marketer’s perspective on how to capture and use relevant customer data to create a personalised, customer-centric offering. How wrong I was. Instead, I was subjected to a conspiracist’s dream - how we share our personal data online and the terrifying implications, leading to identity fraud, leaked personal information and general destruction. I’m not saying that identity fraud, or any of the other potentially terrible things that can happen with personal information are a joke, but just that this particular talk was about five minutes from me fashioning my own tin-foil hat.

I find it interesting to look at how this form of marketing is portrayed in the media - it is seen as invasive and unnecessary, but if the technology is used more appropriately, both the customers and the marketers will benefit. One of the biggest challenges for marketers today is using and obtaining this detailed customer data. Customers are afraid to provide any personal data to the marketer in this post-GDPR world - for fear of the irresponsible, immoral marketer, using their data to market unrelated products to them, that they wouldn’t show any interest in purchasing. They have been told not to trust the marketer, even though the honourable marketer would never market a product unsuitable to the customer - it’s not in our best interests, and would be a waste of time and resources. Marketers and brands now have the difficult task of proving their innocence to potential customers, and demonstrating that the right data is in both parties’ best interests.

Video: Barclays ‘DigiSafe’ advert, tarring all marketers with the same grubby brush.

Marketers must engage with their audience personally, find out as much as they can about them, without being too invasive and with their permission. Marketing is more psychology-meets-analytics now - trying to predict customer needs before the customer even knows what they need, and pre-empting the best channel, message and voice for that customer, then working with designers to have that promotion created. It will be a long, exhausting journey, but so worthwhile.

Ultimately, in the Age of Equality, demographics should be dismissed as irrelevant and outdated. Long live personal identity!

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