Demographics are dead. It's time to pay attention to intent


By Richard Badley

Like most agencies, SMRS run a lot of workshops for our clients. One of the hot topics at the moment – intent led strategy and planning.

The purpose of these is to help and encourage our clients to (genuinely) consider customer intent, and then respond to it with the most impact. We help them identify their audiences’ micro moments, and develop content that maximises value exchange (i.e. addresses and adding value to their customers, by giving them what they want, not we want them to care about). And at the heart of it all, are ‘segments’ of customers, identified and defined by their behaviours and interests.

Why do we think this matters? Brands need to be able to provide more than just sales messages (obvious or disguised). More often than not, they struggle with this. We also need to engage and build relationships. And to do that, we need to know what matters to our customers.

This morning, I was reading about Elaine Rodrigo’s talk at Ilex Amsterdam (Elaine is Chief Strategy and Insights Officer at Danone). She shared details about how Danone has moved away from demographic segmentation and is starting to focus on tribes. Identifying similarities in ‘passion points’, and engaging with customers based on those. Well done Danone. A perfect blend of data and intent.

But then it got me thinking. With the measurable demand for our workshops, and the excitement and coverage around Elaine’s presentation, I am actually a little shocked that more brands are not doing this (no offence Danone).

Is it normal for brands to still use demographics to segment their customers?

Why would we group our customers solely by their age, gender, academic or professional qualification, location or any other demographic? We have an abundance of measures, metrics and deep insights to suggest we know far more about them than that. We should be knowing what they want, and what matters to them. And allowing them to discover content related to that, when they want.

Traditional demographic segmentation simply isn’t right. It’s irrelevant. Not least do you not get the best results from this approach (we can evidence this if you are interested – get in touch). It completely ignores the customers free will, choice and preference.

It is no coincidence that data, measurement and behavioural science is booming. It’s helps marketeers to really understand their customer’s choice and motivations. And in my opinion, that is a far smarter, more productive methodology to develop strategy. But most importantly, it gives our customers a better, more engaging and relevant experience. Regardless of their age, location, ethnicity and all those other irrelevant factors.

Go intent, every time.