Why standard socio-demographic criteria aren’t relevant anymore

If you read this, there is a big chance you had some kind of marketing or communications class in the past. Remember the lessons where you learned how to describe your target group? Where the teacher taught you to work with socio-demographic criterea because of their convenience? Where you, as a student, didn’t dare to even doubt if this is true or not?  

Well, it is not. And I will explain you why. 

The world is not what it used to be

A lot has changed over the years. And no, I’m not talking about technology, or Trump. No, I mean right here. In your street, where you live. Probably in your family even.

We went from a black and white world to a world where everything is grey. And I don’t mean this in a negative way! Grey is awesome. You know why? Because there are so many shades of grey that you never know what to expect exactly. Let me explain.

Age is just a number

The first socio-demographic that comes to mind is age. What used to be an important indicator of lifestyle, has now been reduced to just a number. Nowadays we see grandmothers acting like teenagers, or teenagers not only behaving like grown-ups, but really working like CEO’s while running their own company like they never did anything else before.

Age becomes less and less relevant when we want to target a specific audience. It no longer stands for the things it used to stand for. In the past young was vibrant and old was tired and dull. Nowadays people have a longer life expectancy. Older people want to enjoy their life to the fullest. Which means that they make completely different decisions than the people of their current age, generations before them. And how to enjoy life might mean something completely different for each of them. So no, we can no longer generalize older people. And of course, the same thing applies to ‘teenagers’ or ‘millennials’. But this we knew already.

Social classes mingle

In the past there was a big distance between the rich and the poor. Literally as well as intellectually. Nowadays, this demographic becomes more and more blurry. The intellectual barrier is gone. Increasingly, rich people act like they are middle class. Their house, car and lifestyle becomes more humble and discreet. They also go backpacking or choose to experience some things without luxury. While the lower middle class now gains more means to experience luxury every now and then when going on a holiday for example.

We nowadays have so many choices to make. And every time, we can choose between such a wide range of possibilities that social classes become less relevant and also less obvious. And honestly, who even cares?

Gender becomes irrelevant

Washing powder? Target women. A football? That’s for boys. Thank God this kind of narrow thinking is starting to disappear. Women more and more take on “men” roles and the other way around. It all becomes a grey area where expectations are no longer gender-related and everyone can feel free to do what he/she wants without being judged for it. Hallelujah!

Out with the old, in with the new

These three are the most commonly used demographics to narrow down a target audience, but let’s agree; there are better ways to target an audience, no? Demographical targeting is definitely out!

One better way of targeting is behavioural targeting. With this kind of targeting, previous behaviour is monitored and analysed. Later you get
advertisements that lean into your previous behaviour. This way you get to target ‘real people’ with interests and affinities. This kind of targeting is mostly used online, where the gathering of data is evidently a lot easier than offline.

So, let’s hope the time of the stereotype and cliché target groups have passed for good. Let’s hope marketing and advertising will evolve together with the rest of the world, because if not, what are we even doing?


Written by Peggy Storme – Junior Marketing Consultant

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