SXSW 2013: Finding Your Target Audience Is Both Harder and Easier

by Emily Reeves

Traditionally, agencies and brands have purchased and placed their media based on demographics like age, gender, race, geography, etc. But with the amount of data that consumers are now giving about themselves, their preferences and their habits, we should forget about demographics and think instead about cultures and reaching audiences through the self-identifying information they are providing to us, at least according to the Death by Demographics panel at SXSW that I listened to on Monday.

Looking only at demographics makes it harder to actually reach the specific people who might be interested in your product because people with the exact demographics can have culturally different mind sets. We can actually identify and find those cultural clusters now: all media is being transformed by personalization based on what consumers are clicking and searching and buying, both in store (tracked through loyalty cards) and online (tracked by search and click behaviors).

Think about it: loyalty cards, music selections on Pandora, shows watched on Netflix, products purchased on Amazon–all of these actions are feeding data into your profiles that can determine what recommendations marketers can make to you.

The marketers on the panel recognized that there is a line they shouldn’t cross in the number and frequency of touch points. It can become creepy or just in general too much for consumers to handle without building animosity towards a brand.

The panel agreed that mass, culturally untargeted media is extremely low value. When the media placement is personalized in some way, Todd Morris, the representative from Catalina said that brands get 1000% increase in return. He said, “62% of TV ad dollars are spent against 2% of people that actually purchase products. 30% of TV budgets hit people who have no interest in the category. 1% of population try/buy 80% of all new products/brands. The problem is that they are a different 1% for every product.” But, as Bonin Brough, Kraft VP of Global Media and Consumer Engagement (from Oreo!), said, it is hard and actually requires the brand marketers to do a lot of work. So we have to convince marketers to put in the work to make their marketing dollars go further and be more effective.

Emily Reeves