Five Reasons 2016 Is the Year to Leap From Demographics

Target audiences are defined as the groups of people you need to change behaviorally in order to be successful. Typically, these audiences are fractured along age and gender lines, because that’s the way things have always been done. If changing behavior is really the goal, why are we still lobbing darts at demographics that only encourage assumptions about the audience’s behaviors?

What Do The Beastie Boys and Mike Tyson Have in Common?
At Ignite, we preach simplicity. But not when it means reducing your audience to “Males 25-50” (which includes both Daniel Radcliffe and Adam Sandler), or even “Males: 50” (which is a brief asking for a single plan to appeal to Mike Tyson, Mike D. and Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys).*

Demographics Are a Starting Point. Period.
Demographics aren’t dead, but they attract assumptions like flies. They are a useful tool and a good place to start. It was fine to parse five groups of likely buyers when there were so few channels to communicate with each of them. But now that there are so many options for consumers to express their preferences, interests and behaviors, it is a poor practice to assign them to one of a few age and gender-defined profiles and call it a day.

Here are five reasons to include behavioral data when defining target audiences:

1. The tools are here.

We finally have the tools to access the information we need without a full-blown observational study, an expensive process that once only served to validate our assumptions.
The problem is that we suddenly suffer from tool overload. We’re able to uncover behavioral insights on how people watch their shows on three different screens, or shopping behaviors at their home grocery store versus unfamiliar retailers. We can know when they click, why they click, and how they feel when they click. Even adventurous marketers feel like Indiana Jones in the Grail room. One wrong choice could spell disaster.

Unfortunately, there’s no one perfect tool. Sorry. Find a trusted marketer to help you choose the right tool(s), and to craft an effective plan.

2. Being ignored is no longer the worst fate.

The omnichannel approach (same emotion, every channel) is great, and we are ad nauseum advocates. But 360-degree mentalities are tough to shake (same message, every channel).

The problem is that “targeted” display ads that don’t contain targeted content aren’t just ineffective, they can damage your brand. The consumer experience demands context. If your goal is to change behaviors and you push the same message on the YES Network as you do on ESPN.com, you’re only sending the message that you don’t really care.

3. You’re missing the true potential of current trends.

Trends. Fads. The flavor of the week. They are crutches for lazy marketers. By examining behavioral trends instead of broad population trends, you’ll be able to identify fertile ground for increasing brand consideration in context when micro becomes macro. In other words: See where it’s going, be there when it arrives. Otherwise, you’ll always be late to the party, screaming “YOLO!” when the beat drop calls for FOLO.

The problem is that there’s often no repository for these findings and observations. Who owns it? The right agency partner can devote planning resources to annual, quarterly, or even monthly tracking to stay on top of what trending data means, both in the short term and the long run.

4. Even your market will be better defined.

When you begin to add behavioral data to your audience profiles, you can see where the product fits into their lives. You might even uncover how your market itself has been misinterpreted.

For example, think about where you keep your ketchup. Generally speaking, Britons and African Americans from the South probably store their ketchup in an unrefrigerated cabinet, but other people likely store their ketchup in the refrigerator. ** The simple knowledge of where the product is stored shows that in these two geographies, the assumptive competition is very different.

In CPG, winning means not only selling, but getting the buyer to use product and restock. The conversations of “ketchup versus refrigerated mayonnaise” and “ketchup versus shelf-stable hot sauce or malt vinegar” are very different, indeed.

5. Getting a “Yes” will be easier.

Assumptions, again, are our common enemy. Organizations are siloed. They rely on vast stakeholder chains to approve pretty much anything. Grounding initiatives, their goals and outputs with tightly focused rationale will lead to more success than would a broad interpretation of your audience.

This is because target audience definitions that include behavioral data remove assumptive barriers when presenting internally. Essentially, you are taking away the ability for someone to say, “Well, I’m a part of the target demographic, and I don’t get it, so I’m killing it.”

What to Do About It

Circle February 29 on your calendar to gather your team and discuss how your briefs are constructed. Bring several recent examples. If there are “Target Audience” form fields in briefs that haven’t been touched in the last six weeks, you should strongly consider including behavioral data into your target audience definitions this year.

*P.S. Mike Tyson, Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond are all from Brooklyn, are all self-reported reformed misogynists (Horovitz is now married to feminist activist and musician Kathleen Hanna), and all have been depicted in video games. How much fun would it be to write and work against that brief? And what’s more, how effective would the outcome be?

** Goldman, Alex, and Vogt, PJ (January 20, 2016), “Raising the Bar.” Retrieved on February 25, 2016.

Click here to see how we helped a client tailor their campaign messaging to different audiences by delving into publication readership behavioral data.