Still Only Relying on Demographic Data?

Age, gender, income, and number of children. Those are your basic demographics, and although they are very important factors, they are far from being the only ones that matter.

 Let’s pretend that demographic data is like dating. Now, you may be saying to yourself that age, gender, income, and presence of children are hugely important. Although these are key indicators about the type of person you might be dealing with, and might have been your criteria, you could actually find happiness not solely relying on them.

If you are looking for your one true soulmate, then I doubt you really believe that any person within a certain age bracket will be the “one”. Other factors, such as interests, hobbies and morals also play a very important role.

I am going to assume that if you are dating, then you are looking for something more specific or special. You likely have a list of criteria. For example, maybe you are looking for someone who loves to cook, run, and watch football. Or, maybe you are looking for someone who loves to eat out (hates to cook), video games, (hates to run) and historical documentaries (hates to watch football). If you are looking for the first type, then why waste your time on the second, even if both types are 35 years old and live in Los Angeles?

The point is, not all people with the same demographic profile are, in fact, the same. In fact, the demographic profile is not the most important. Predictive models rarely put weight on these attributes anyways. Think about that. If you are in the market to find your soulmate, do you want to waste time going on dates with people who are clearly not right for you?

Applying that same logic to ad targeting will stop you from wasting ad dollars on the wrong people.

It is important to understand the power of data, and the insight gained from results when used correctly. But time and time again, we see that our industry is either underutilizing data or using it incorrectly. Most are over- relying on demographics for targeting which is shooting in the dark and definitely not hitting the right customer. 

Relying on demographic data has been hardwired into us. For years, television ads were scheduled based on demographics associated to content and timeslots. And even today, clients send us briefs explaining their target through a list of demographic attributes (age, geo-location, and household income). 

But, is demographic data really good enough? Month after month we see that 80% of dollars spent on data are spent on demographic attributes. You can do so much better. Stop selling yourself short. It is true that demographic data is inexpensive, but that does not always equal money well spent.

Let’s go back to the dating example. As we learned in Econ 101, time and money are finite resources that we need to do our best to maximize. When you’re dating, you know that you can’t date everyone at once. It is not possible given the hours in the day, or your sanity. So, you choose the best contenders and you focus more energy and attention on the few people that are the most fitting to all of your criteria.

Similarly in ad targeting, it makes sense to spend more money on your actual target, than to waste dollars on unqualified audiences. If you spend more money on a more granular audience, then it is more likely that they will take the desired action. Even at a higher cost you will be more likely to hit your performance metrics.

Data, like the people it represents, is complex. Demographic data is literally only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more below the surface, and that is where the real force is. If you are willing to dig down deep, you can discover powerful attributes that explain who your customer is, what motivates them, what they need and what they want. This is how you strengthen a campaign with data.

You need to dig deeper. For a long time demo was the only data available in digital, but now we have rich, illustrative profiles that can tell us who a person really is. So, I challenge you to think of the brief as if it were the picture on a dating profile: it is a great snapshot, but it is a simplified representation of the person, and it can be (very) misleading. If you really want to understand a person, you have to click into the profile and read the details to get the entire picture.

If your criteria is met your, make sure you make a good first impression (ad pun intended). Use data to help craft your message. If you dig into the data profile, you can find a detail that will help make your message more relevant. Then, put the same amount of energy you put into crafting the perfect text into creating the perfect marketing message. Don’t just rely on witty punctuation and emojis. Use insights from data to make a meaningful connection and get a real response.  

In short, focus on the right people with the right message. You can get a better ROI if you use the right data – even if it is more expensive.

Want to talk more about dating and data? Email the digital data team at digitaldatasource@merkleinc.com

Join the Discussion