Is Demographic-Marketing Dead?

Is Demographic-Marketing Dead?

Article by Tracey Gordon, VP Client Services, and Paul Gordon, co-founder, Bubblebox.

The elusive millennial demographic has been hot on every digital marketer’s lips for years now. Heck, we even wrote an article about how to engage this so-called “highly influential” cohort. It seemed as if every brand worth their salt had joined the great race to target, capture and retain their piece of the “the selfie generation,” while swiftly pushing the parent demographic—the boomers— under the rug. I thought it might be interesting to write something to counter all of this millennial fervor—a think piece on how to engage the oft-ignored “boomer consumer.” But the more I read about demographic marketing, the more conflicting the findings seemed to be, and the more I realized that there really isn’t a consensus definition of any generation in our modern times. So I got to thinking: is demographic marketing dead?

In the advent of mass-produced consumer goods, mass marketing seemed like a good idea. According to Jamie Beckland of Janrain, advertising in the 50’s and 60’s was all about having as many eyes glued to the TV screen as possible: “in order to convince consumers that an advertising message was relevant to them, consumers had to buy the idea that they were just like everyone else.” In order to stimulate that mass-market buy-in, Beckland explains that marketers had to group consumers into generations: “when you lump 78 million people into one group called “Baby Boomers,” it’s much easier to sell them stuff, especially when consumers accepted their generational classification.”

Modern marketing goes hand in hand with the rise of modern individualism. Today’s consumers reject generational classification and don’t want to be treated like another member of the herd. Digital technology in many ways has become the great equalizer—people of all ages have access to web, social, and mobile media, blurring the lines between generational interests, tastes and culture. In a world that’s as connected as ours, MediaPost’s Gordon Plutsky asserts that 2015 Is the Tipping Point for Age-Based Marketing.

It’s time to jump off the millennial bandwagon and start taking a more personalized approach to customer engagement. Here’s how:

  1. Target Personas, not Demographics
  2. Inundated with competing marketing messages across channels and devices, today’s customers hold more power than the sellers. It is therefore more crucial than ever for companies to gain as many customer insights as possible. There are far too many brands that believe that a survey will give them the intel they need for razor-sharp targeting—they couldn’t be more wrong. According to Adele Revella, author of Buyer Personas and CEO of the Buyer Persona Institute: “surveys don’t tell you anything you don’t already know.” Jeff Ogden of Salesforce echoes this sentiment when he writes that “surveys give you the answers to predefined questions, they almost never uncover deep insights that could not have been predicted.”

    Creating buyer personas, on the other hand, can reveal unexpected customer insights. Hubspot defines a buyer persona as a “representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” Defining personas enables marketers to identify their most valuable prospects, leads and customers with a view to execute more targeted marketing strategies.

    Personas can be created based on a variety of variables, including: gender, job title, department, financial status, education, expressed interests, items browsed, pages clicked or links downloaded.

    Certain companies just “get” their customers because they build personas through progressive profiling, a practice that encourages prospects to divulge personal details incrementally, by filling out forms on a website. Best practice dictates that forms should never ask more than a few questions at once—like a first date, no one wants to reveal too much too soon. The best marketing cloud platforms allow you to display new form fields based on data that you’ve already collected from a prospect, empowering you to stealthily build a customer profile that you can leverage into personalized email communications.

  3. Use Real-Time Data
  4. You can gain insight into your prospects, leads and customers as individuals by using real-time data and analytics, which allow you to track, segment and target them by their real-time behaviors. Best of breed marketing cloud platforms enable you to deploy powerful remarketing emails based on behavioral triggers—such as whether an individual clicks, browses or transacts on your website. Use the platform’s analytics capabilities to measure engagement with your campaigns, and then leverage that information to offer incentives to those with low engagement to increase conversions

    The use of real time data is especially powerful in the retail and travel ecommerce space, where cart/booking and browse abandonment is at an all time high: 66% of all shopping carts are abandoned while more than 88% of online shoppers never reach the cart! Top-tier cart and browse recovery programs allow companies to offer potential customers the personalized service they need to complete the checkout process. Deploying recovery emails depicting items carted or browsed can have a transformative impact on a brand’s bottom line. According to Fresh Relevance, browse recovery emails drive a 3.14% sales uplift while cart recovery emails can deliver a 7.14% increase in sales.

  5. Create Journeys
  6. Brands with rich customer data at their disposal are well primed to deliver 1:1 journeys that tell customers a story over time, across channels. Armed with the right technology platform, brands are empowered to plan every stage of the journey to ensure that customers receive timely, relevant content to their device of choice. Age has no bearing on the customer journey, as each is curated to an individual’s expressed interests, preferences and behavior.

    International shoe retailer Aldo is noted for using marketing cloud technology to adapt to the changing way we shop and make purchase decisions. Adopting the platform has enabled Aldo to gain 360-degree insights into their customer base, allowing their marketing team to better identify and meet customer needs. Not only is the shoe giant able to drip personalized content to their customers based on aggregated data and behavioral triggers, it is also able to participate in conversations that people are having about the brand from within their platform’s social media management tool. According to Salesforce, Aldo is also beginning to optimize their cloud’s mobile modules to develop a collection of apps to increase customer engagement:

    “Style Guru” will be a hub for trend and style information; “Outfit Matchmaker” will help customers match shoes to outfits they already own; and “Virtual Shelf” will let customers quickly explore and purchase from the ALDO collection."

    Brands who deploy successful journeys make use of multiple touch points—from web and email, social to mobile—to deepen brand engagement. Many marketers shy away from using modern marketing channels to target “older” generations due to the myth that these groups are technology averse. According to Samantha Johnson of MediaPost, boomers want to be “empowered by media and new technologies,” leaving brands with a huge opportunity to expand their reach beyond Millennials to a more persona-based approach.

The Demographic is Dead

There’s no question: in order for marketing to succeed today, it has to be personalized and customer-centric. Brands who don’t adapt to the changing landscape of engagement marketing will quickly find themselves light-years behind their competition. There are a number of brands that simply didn’t adapt to the change, and paid the ultimate price!

The emergence of robust marketing cloud technology has made the 1:1 customer experience a reality for brands that use it well. With advanced features that run the gamut from real-time data tracking to personalization and triggered programs, marketing cloud platforms equip brands with the tools and insight required to foster unbreakable brand loyalty—regardless of age.