Does marketing by demographics limit engagement?

On January 20, 2016

If there's one thing marketing professionals don't have a shortage of, it's tools to target and refine the groups of consumers that are most interested in their products. 

However, while businesses have access to an overwhelming array of data and insights that allows them to narrow down their audience, how many are using these tools as effectively as possible?

All businesses will be familiar with the concept of marketing by strict demographics. In previous years, some of these groups have received considerably more attention than others, with millennials in particular presenting both a challenge and an opportunity to businesses worldwide. 

Interestingly, Google has suggested that this way of marketing may be inherently limited, which could pose new challenges for B2C marketing in 2016. 

Why are traditional demographics limiting?

Unsurprisingly, the trends Google uncovered in its investigation are all a result of the growth in digital advertising. Now that organisations have ready access to tools and data that lets them greatly refine their target audiences, consumers expect them to do so. 

Traditional demographics often miss a large proportion of a possible audience.

While traditional demographics may encompass a fair proportion of consumers, Google discovered they almost always miss out a large range of prospective customers purely because they belong to a different age range or gender category. 

For example, by analysing data from Millward Brown Digital, Google found that while males between the ages of 18 and 34 are traditionally regarded to be the dominant market for video games, this segment only accounts for 31 per cent of all people who search for these products on mobile devices. 

This data reveals that, if a marketer were to structure their campaign in accordance with usual stereotypes, they would be inadvertently sacrificing 69 per cent of their possible audience. 

What's the solution?

The remedy, according to Google, involves reducing the role demographics based on age and gender play in structuring a marketing campaign. While in many cases they are an accurate representation of a product or service's user base, the above example shows they can also be limiting. 

Google's solution involves capitalising on customer intent, ensuring that when they pick up their smartphones or head online to research a product, a business is there to service their request. 

According to Google, more than half (51 per cent) of people surveyed have moved from their first choice to a competing brand because they have provided better online content. In these instances, it's essential that businesses are available online and are able to start the conversation first. 

Marketing lists can play an important role in ensuring consumers gain access to content they want to engage with. As these lists are divided by industry type and subject matter, it's easy to narrow down a target audience based on intent as Google advises. 

Is it time to leave data behind?
Is there a better way to use marketing data?

How does this affect wider marketing trends?

Accenture investigated the role digital trends have in shaping the way consumers engage with content. While much of social media and other internet platforms revolve around sharing and collaboration, the organisation noted most consumers respond positively to the elements of personalisation it offers. 

According to Accenture, this demand for services and content that can be personalised is the key to creating engagement. It can also be seen as a catalyst for the trends Google described. The more consumers expect personalised content, the less likely they are to respond to generic communication produced with out-of-date demographics in mind. 

Millward Brown also compiled a list of the trends likely to have the biggest effect on digital marketing over the course of 2016. According to the organisation, the fragmented nature of the digital marketing landscape will add further challenges, reinforcing the importance of securing the interest for consumers that have intent. 

The Prospect Shop offers businesses target marketing lists to ensure their content makes it to the right audiences. Contact the team to find out how they can help. 

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