The end of demographics

In the modern marketing era demographics have been used as the marketer’s major tool to target an audience, find out who our users were and predict customers based on age, income, location, education and other nefarious clustering techniques. But this is now coming to an end. Demographics are over.

We don’t need to use an invented tool to find out who our audience is…. We can now know exactly who they are. The connected world gives us permission to interact rather than guess, advertise and hope. We are now moving beyond influence, a little past community and now rapidly approaching the desire economy. Patterns of marketing are changing from demographic and geographic clustering, to interest based desires. Borders and barriers are all being broken.

So what does this mean for anyone trying to create something riveting? Well, it means what we did yesterday probably wont work and we should probably start doing the opposite of what big brands in the mass market era. Here’s a few tips to get your started:

  • Just do what you do, and trust that the people who care about that will find you.
  • Avoid the two worst words ever created by marketers: Consumer & Target. Replace with Person & Audience.
  • And most of all remember a person is never truly defined by where they live, what they earn or their age.


5 Comments The end of demographics

  1. Ben Hastie

    I would have to disagree Steve , people of like-minds cluster together and they always will. Age is a proven demographic.If you do not target market, you are shooting fish in a barrel. you wouldn’t want to open a skate park in a retirement village for example.

    Using one demographic is not the only aspect you would use to find potential customers. Its all about overlaying demographics,census data and industry reports to identify trends and viable opportunities.

    Having faith in your product and treating people like they have individual value is a good stance to take although I don’t believe that demographics reduces people into numbers. Demographics helps us make sense of the numbers.

  2. Steve Sammartino

    Thanks for commenting Ben. My post admittedly didn’t go into much detail…. Maybe a larger one can follow up…

    I’m saying with a level of hyperbole that demographics is a very poor measure. And that when we now have access to both the social graph and the interest graph, we can do better than assuming preference and behaviour based on location / age et al. The new technology stack has taken us beyond it. It’s very marketing 1.0.

    – I’m a 39 year old white male who lives in the Western suburbs of Melbourne with a tertiary education. Now tell me about my media habits and expenditure patterns What I’m into and like doing?
    – What are teeneagers into? What is their favourite website, favourite band, fav Tv show, fav sport?

    Hard to tell these days isn’t it.

    The point I’m making is that the world has fragmented dramatically and we need to move with it…. Sure we can use DemoG as a start…. but as far as I can tell it is becoming less relevant every day except for the most obvious categories.

  3. Maia

    Hi Steve, I saw you present this in Canberra yesterday and with an election coming up in Australia, I am interested in how you think this phenomenon (ie everything you presented on) playing out in the way we view democracy and the democratic process. Are politicians like the TV Industrial Complex? And if so, what could possibly be the new ‘digital’ paradigm?

    I know the pollies are trying to engage in digital channels, but I think the malaise with the current politicial model goes deeper than that – it’s about control and choice (ie as voters we’ve got none).

    I’d be really interested in your thoughts.

    (PS I don’t even like audience – it implies ‘listening’ not connecting and collaborating… is there an even better one?)

  4. Steve Sammartino

    Yeh, you’re right – community is probably better than audience….

    Yes – I totally think our democractic process is broken… I really think the most broken thing about it is the 2 party system. Also I feel like they don’t have the courage to lead and make decisions for the good of the country and instead follow the polls on their activity – short term focus. I can’t understand why the decision making process can’t be digitized so that we can actually make decisions ourselves on important issues rather than outsourcing to a party process. Maybe I’m being a bit utopian.


  5. Ben Hastie

    I get your point, this why many companies are using sophisticated algorithms to get to know their customers intimately so as to get to that holy grail of marketing a 1 to 1 relationship.

    What you can’t escape is that for all your perceived uniqueness is that you probably have more in common with other males of your age and education levels than you would think .This is where demographics comes in. I think that the world is not as fragmented as you think but I like your viewpoint Steve.

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