A time-honoured way of targeting audiences through media, the demographic has come under pressure like never before. Increasingly, segmenting or measuring audiences by common demographics such as gender, race, age, disabilities, mobility, home ownership, employment status and even location are being devalued by the pace of change in the UK population.
Elsewhere, Smooth’s exclusive research shows in detail how people in their 40s and 50s are behaving differently than their predecessors did 20, or even 10, years ago, and what this means for brands (page 8).
It is not just older consumers who are behaving differently, however. These changes are happening at the same time as trends – from mature consumption to staycationing – have developed and taken hold. From all age groups, the consumer market is increasingly complex and less constrained by the generalisations and stereotyping of demographics.
As Karen Blackett, MediaCom’s UK chief executive, warns: ‘Plan and buy against demographics at your peril.’
So, while older generations might be acting ‘younger’, there are big changes in other age groups. Overall, it seems, age transitions are becoming blurred and the influence and nature of peer groups are breaking down. ‘A lot of this is driven by social media,’ says Dan Hagen, head of planning at Carat.
How consumers might surprise you
|55- to 75-year-olds account for 28%
of the total UK population, equivalent to 12,868,000 people. Source: Carat
42% of British women over 45 are gamers. Source: ICM Research
Nearly one in five 16+ year olds in the UK (19%) are ‘multi-screeners’ - watching TV, using the internet on a PC or laptop, and
using the internet on a mobile device on a weekly basis (10% in Europe, with Sweden and Switzerland leading alongside
the UK). Source: EIAA
The economic outlook in the UK has affected the behaviour and outlook of all generations, but this is particularly marked in the under-20s.
According to Youth TGI insight, five years ago only 21% of 11- to 19-year-olds were worried about unemployment, but this figure has increased to 34% since the economic downturn.
The proportion of 11- to 19-year-olds who think that young people should enjoy their money instead of saving it has fallen steadily by 6% since 2007.
Another sign of a disappearing carefree attitude to the teenage years is that in 2004, two-thirds of 11- to 19-year-olds felt it important to have lots of free time to enjoy themselves; this has fallen to less than 50%. However, as a spokesman for Kantar Media stresses, despite ‘worries and angst’, teens are in other ways more positive and upbeat than they have ever been, a mindset marketers could profit from tapping into.
According to Kantar, more teens now think it important to lead an adventurous life – 5% more than in 2004. Over the same period, there has also been an increase in the number of teens placing importance on enjoying a peaceful life.
In addition, their views on being open-minded, helping people and achieving success on their own merits have remained largely high and constant.
At the same time, more teens are enjoying saving money – an increase of 7% in the past five years. Against this more financially rigid attitudinal backdrop, marketers have to find more sophisticated ways to appeal to young people effectively, recommends Kantar.
A series of elements has brought about a change in the way people perceive age and age landmarks, notes Jeni Whittaker at market researcher Qualiprojects.
‘Boundaries due to age do not exist at all in many social situations, and mixed-age groups are frequently found sharing interests, hobbies and social spaces,’ she says.
All age groups are affected by the growth of the internet, widespread international travel and immigration, gadgets and technology, and the rise of single living, as UK divorce rates increase.
Richard Jacobs, head of commercial strategy at Smooth, puts his finger on why this also works for the over-40s. ‘They
are often going out more, spending more on fashion and beauty products and generally behaving more like you’d expect a 30-something to. They have more time
to enjoy doing the things they want, not because they are retired, but because their children – if they have them – are older and need less constant attention.’
Different age groups do still do some things differently, though. They may all be likely to use social media platforms, but for different reasons. As James Withey, head of brand insight at business information group Precise, notes: ‘Teenagers use Twitter differently to adults and have contrasting motivations. Teens use social media to share amusing anecdotes and stories, whereas adults use it to project aspirational images of themselves.’
All this change is, of course, a challenge to the media industry, but it threatens the connection between brands and consumers. If they are reliant on outdated notions of who their customers are, then
messaging is not only inefficient, it is ineffective. The good news for marketers
is that the tools to find this out are more readily available than ever before.
This is all happening at a time when consumers are more empowered than ever, and more demanding of personalised experiences. As Jason Cromack, chief executive officer of Lateral group, says: ‘Segmentation is a tried and tested method for marketers, and it is through this that brands can use insight to build up a profile of different types of customers and develop targeted and relevant communications that reflect their needs and interests.’
Not only do changes in society and technology – how we express those changes – empower consumers and the individual, but these individuals demand personalised experience from their brands.
Not everyone agrees that segmentation is still a useful tool if the demographic is truly dead.
Brands know this because they have more data and feedback about consumers than ever. Retailers, particularly the major supermarkets, saw this coming first.
Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke told the Global Summit of the Consumer Goods forum that using Clubcard data, social networking and other information, it could be more personalised online than ever.
‘It has now become easier for retailers to meet an individual’s needs,’ he said. ‘So today we are in a new era of retailing – the era of mass-personalisation.’
Andreas Weigend, a former Amazon chief scientist and Stanford University professor, has written: ‘Segmentation, not long ago the "Holy Grail" of marketing, is becoming an anachronism. Most people don’t want to be anonymous. Customers want to be treated as individuals and they are heading for platforms and companies that understand this.’
Cromack notes: ‘Loyalty comes when customers feel a connection with a brand, but, even more importantly, with brands that understand what they need and deliver it. It is the cornerstone of brand success and data plays a crucial role.
By gathering and analysing customer information, brands gain insight into their behaviour.’
So, what are the trends that cut across all age groups? They range from the ways in which consumers shop to how they consume media. Karolina Drakic, associate director of innovation and brand research specialists Ipsos Marketing, points to trends like mature materialism, where consumers are ‘less easily shocked and appreciate more daring and outspoken brands’. Hence the rise of brands such as Ann Summers on the high street.
Enterstayment and staycation
Other trends, driven by the recession, according to Ipsos, include ‘enterstayment’ and ‘staycations’. Cash-conscious consumers are spending more time at home or holidaying in the UK, rather than abroad.
Drakic says: ‘The web is important, but so, too, is access to foreign travel, the influence of mass migration and a huge cross-pollination of ideas and beliefs across the globe.’
It’s a dichotomy. Brands have more opportunity to reach consumers through social, or earned, media and owned media (websites, point-of-sale or retail marketing, apps and content marketing), while their traditional media channels are undergoing more change than ever. There is good news for advertisers and brands, however.
Not only does this mean that consumers are getting more used to advertising and sponsored content, they even describe themselves, in some cases, as ‘happy’ with advertising.
The recent report exploring UK consumers’ understanding of the mechanics of online privacy and advertising, carried out by Kantar Media on behalf of online advertising network ValueClick and the IAB, reveals that people’s relationship with the advertising they see online is likely to change significantly over the next 10 to 20 years, presenting both opportunities and challenges. The research compared consumer attitudes to advertising on TV, radio and print media with advertising online and on social media.
It revealed that consumers are remarkably comfortable with advertising across all media channels included in the study, with a minority, averaging 16%, of people being ‘somewhat or very unhappy’ to see advertising.
The number of people saying they are ‘happy’ with advertising is an average of 44%. Social media scored slightly lower
in the advertising happiness stakes than other media, but scored comparable levels of ‘unhappiness’ with other media, says Richard Sharp, UK managing director of ValueClick Media.
Cromack sums it up: ‘Customers are loyal to brands they feel meet their needs, so if brand messages are consistent across multiple channels, they have a greater opportunity to reach the customer with the right message at the right time.’
Withey adds: ‘Knowing your customer is the cardinal rule, but that’s harder than it sounds when society is made up of a kaleidoscopic mix of people with eclectic needs and wants, all with different pressures on their finances.’
In the recession, businesses are being forced to focus their marketing efforts and tap into the markets with the greatest buying power.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk