Editor’s Note: I am very excited to introduce a new author to the Research Access family. I have known Rebecca Brooks, partner at market research firm Dialogue, for over 10 years. She brings a wealth of experience and insights about marketing and research to Research Access readers. In her first post, Rebecca warns of the dangers of “demographic blindness.”
I read an article recently touting the need for a digital marketing campaign as a standard part of your business model.
That seems apparent, right? But one quote in the article was surprising to me. It came from a manufacturer of a home health care device typically used by the elderly. He said a digital marketing campaign would never make sense in his business. This home health care manufacturer was thinking that his target audience is over 60 and they don’t like digital strategies.
As a researcher, I’ve encountered this phenomenon before. I call it “demographic blindness.” It’s the condition where you think about your target audience as demographics rather than people.
The consequence of demographic blindness is missing out on what’s really going on with your target population.
The idea of seniors not liking technology is quickly becoming history. It bears little resemblance to our present – and certainly not our future. Even if you could argue that people age 60+ use the Internet less, that won’t be true in 10 or even five years. If you have no digital strategy now, it will be too late when your competitors own that space ahead of you.
Open your eyes and observe, then react to what you see; don’t rely on preconceived notions about what tendencies demographic groups exhibit.
People age. Older people now will look a lot like our younger people in a few years. Technology is advancing at rates we can’t imagine. In research five years ago, people were scoffing at the idea of respondents taking surveys on mobile phones. Now, every research company has mobile surveying strategy – and if they don’t, well…
Another example of demographic blindness comes from a current client of mine. This company is truly innovative and is in the fantastic position of having the resources and opportunity to create a new product for consumers. While their product category typically deals with an older demographic, they are employing a purely digital sales and marketing strategy.
In a recent meeting, the company president was receiving pushback about a digital-only approach from a staffer who felt such a strategy was inappropriate for the product’s target age group. The president asked the staffer a few questions about his own Internet usage. Of course, the staffer was well-engaged in tech. Then, he asked the staffer his age. It turns out he was just two years younger than the product’s ideal target age!
The staffer had been succumbing to demographic blindness. He has assumed that the older group would not respond to digital marketing. However, the answer was right before his eyes.
People immersed in research on a daily basis can often lose the human face behind the statistics. The clients that I see being the most innovative and bold remember that demographics are useful tags, but understanding cannot stop there.
Rebecca Brooks is a partner at Dialogue. She has translated her Anthropology background into a successful marketing research career that focuses on insight driven analysis. Having worked across a number of categories and with varied businesses, Rebecca has a keen understanding of what clients need from research. Prior to Dialogue, Rebecca worked at Hall & Partners, a brand and advertising consultancy, where she was co-Managing Partner responsible for overseeing quantitative research in the Los Angeles office (over $20mm annually). Rebecca’s diverse background includes segmentation, tracking copy testing and numerous custom quantitative projects for Fortune 100 companies as well as highly localized and targeted research for regional brands.