Surrounded by incredible Toronto skyline views in the BBDO office, our past APG event disrupted the idealistic approach of predicting and portraying consumers with broad demographics. Our three speakers concluded with similar thoughts:

Demographics are your baseline – but it does not dictate a marketing or media plan. People are much more complex than these traditionally gathered markers. It’s about demographics within context. 

Anne Sutherland, Founder, Thinking U (@AESthinking) kicked off the event with a Maslow quote (how else do you start with a room full of planners?) to illustrate how we tend to group things for ease of processing – “To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encountered begins to look like a nail.” Anne dove into her journey behind rethinking Zellers’ approach to targeting consumers when under pressure from the then-incoming Walmart giant. Demographics had grounded the business opportunity, but it was unearthing the mindset of life as a young suburban mom that connected the brand opportunity for Zellers.

Morgan Gerard, Chief Resident Storyteller, Idea Couture, had a lot to say about the insane marketing fixation on Millennials. It started from how our client’s corporate culture thrived on automation, predictability and actionability. This fuelled an immediate answer for how to combat the Millennial madness and voilà! – the same generally generalized insights on a vast group of individuals. Morgan ended his bold and entertaining talk on how insights is an ACT of understanding. You must take action to do in-depth research of people – ethnography over focus groups, learning over just validating – to name a few.

Our last speaker, Devon MacDonald, CSO, Mindshare (@devonmacdonald), spoke to the increased role of digital that is providing rich data about consumer behaviour. Netflix serves up movies you want to watch, Facebook serves up friends and family stories you want to know, Amazon serves up products you want to buy. Big data is allowing us to better understand intent. Combining cultural and behavioural context with algorithmic learning and customer data is how we can build greater relevance.

The traditional manner of generalizing consumers based on a few available data points has now transformed. Demographic targeting is still valid, but only if part of a bigger approach.

About Yvonne Chung

Yvonne Chung has written 1 post in this blog.

Digital Analyst @ TAXI