Tuesday 2¢: Demographics are Dead

Research shows that grouping people by age and other labels doesn’t tell us much about who they are, what they have in common and how they will behave” – This week I’ve got a bit obsessed with “valuegraphics”.

A few years ago, I was at a conference run by a well-known analyst firm, the presenter from the firm was talking about marketing to millennials, as just about everyone still does.

They listed the attributes of “the millennial”; their dislike of doing business over the phone, their love of doing everything digitally, their relationship with social media (etc. etc. you’ve seen this stuff before).

I looked down the list and I saw myself, but according to this wise sage of marketing, I was a decade or so too old to be exhibiting this behaviour, to share these same values and to have a need to be treated the same way when I am buying stuff.

I almost raised my hand. OK, but I’m English so I quietly tutted, which did not get the speakers attention.

I have two teenage daughters, 18 and 15, the same generation, they live in the same house, have the same disposable income, but when it comes to buying stuff they are poles apart. If the high street does die, my youngest will be devastated, deprived of one of her joys in life; trying on clothes, putting together outfits and taking selfies. My oldest is distinctly “meh” about the whole retail experience and is delighted when an amazon parcel arrives. I suspect her opinion would be if the high street died maybe they could extend the library.

Aside from the folly that believing folks of the same age are the same, all of our lives have become more socially mobile, our friends, especially on social media come from a wider demographic than would have been true 20 years ago.

We are more likely to be bonded by common behaviour, beliefs, values, than the old bonds of only knowing the people that trod the same path as us, our age, the small town, university, school and job. The goldfish bowls that we all live in are way bigger and the marketers that want to sell into them need to understand they are no longer defined by our generation.

It’s the same in B2B, while we don’t tend to segment based on age, we do segment on something similarly as arbitrary – job title. We assume that all CMO’s have the same set of values, fears, attitude to risk, etc. etc as each other.

When we should be thinking about their needs; a risk averse CMO may have way more in common with a CIO with the same values and putting these two in the same segment would make more sense when creating and targeting content.

Crude examples I know, but I’m going to learn more about what’s being called “Valuegraphics” and dive into a new book those lovely fellows at Amazon just delivered (hastening my daughters dream of a bigger library no doubt) – “We Are All The Same Age Now” by David Allison (more here) and the opening line of this post comes from this article that introduces the topic and contains some of the research.

That’s my Tuesday 2¢, thanks David Allison – demographics are dead!