The Great Debate: Demographics or Psychographics

Since the early days of Madison Avenue advertising, demographics have helped advertisers  kind-of sort-of pinpoint the types of consumers that might be interested in purchasing their products or services by such segments as age, income, location or education.

But now big media, including news networks like NBC News, and are focusing on something that could potentially provide much more value for advertisers, and provide much more relevant advertising to consumers: psychographics.

The idea behind the shift is such: Though demographics help content producers and advertisers define particular spectrums in terms of those that are more likely to be able to purchase particular products, they don’t necessarily focus on things like aspirations, attitudes, or perhaps most importantly, intent.

So, are demographics dead?

Can we – advertisers – truly divorce ourselves from something that has long been the way to target advertising? Are demographics still as important as they once were?

Take, for example, Nielsen TV ratings which has often caught flak from audiences and advertisers alike for relying on things like demographics and impressions in order to determine the value of advertising in the increasingly-disrupted medium that is TV. It may be foolish to rely on half-century old ways of targeting consumers when, in just the past decade alone, the way we consume information has begun changing at an alarming rate.

But Nielsen, too, seems to have realized that, joining forces with Catalina Marketing in order to more effectively target their advertising initiatives through psychographics.

research on the subject of demographics from Catalina Marketing indicates that as little of 15% of brand advertisements — that’s 15 cents on the dollar — are targeted towards the consumers that account for 80 percent of a brand’s sales!

Which means that it might be time for a paradigm shift. Especially when you consider the wide number of massive online networks and  free advertising tools that make performing psychographic research much easier.

But ultimately, whether you target based on demographics or psychographics,  marketers must still focus on the messages that they are broadcasting to their target audiences.

And that’s where brand comes in.  : )

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