TRENDS & INSIGHTS

Demographics Are An Illusion: Breaking Beyond Ineffective Consumer Data

By Selma Koita

August 24, 2022

From the beginning, marketers have relied on demographic data to define their audiences and guide their strategies. By understanding the age, gender, ethnicity, or location of a person, marketers are able to extrapolate their interests and buying habits.

To read that definition, however, it becomes readily apparent how faulty the premise is, particularly in a modern media and consumer environment where every person is exposed to thousands of products and messages each day. To assume that a man in his 40s enjoys or has an interest in golf, for example, subverts the entire notion of individuality or personal preference.

A recent roundtable discussion of senior leaders at Fetch Rewards discussed why reliance on demographics alone inevitably fails, and how marketers should approach personalization rooted in observed consumer behavior.

In practice, the structuring of marketing ad spends around this demographic data leads to a number of inefficiencies that harms campaign efficacy and return on ad spend.

“The problem is, when you use demographics, you are going to oversubscribe to the certain percentage of people that are in the demographic that don’t neatly fit in it,” says David Berk, Group President for Product & Technology at Fetch. “There are people who would fit into the demographic of laundry detergent who clearly don’t buy laundry detergent. And then there are other people that historically you wouldn’t think would buy the product and then they do. And if you strictly use demographics you’re missing both sides; you are overspending in one place and you are not talking to the people that you should in another.”

As brands and as marketers, it’s imperative to break beyond the reliance on demographics to understand the actual buying behaviors of consumers. When brands, retailers, or CPGs with wide portfolios of products are able to target consumers and recommend, discount, or promote products based on observed purchase data, it can be truly revolutionary for sales growth.

This is the benefit that Fetch offers brand partners. Instead of focusing on who the consumer is, Fetch hones in on what a consumer does. By leveraging and rewarding purchase data the consumer willingly provides, it serves as a foundation of understanding for the types of products that consumer likes, and enables an automation engine to better predict the types of products they may like.

The truth is, not only is demographic data unreliable now, but it always has been. It’s one of the reasons why digital marketing platforms largely base their targeting on expressed consumer preference, purchase history, and interests. Demographic information can be used within that context, particularly location information to connect digital shoppers with brick-and-mortar locations, but to use demographic data as the sole identifying criteria is inexact for complex consumers.

Moving away from demographic data is now possible for marketers. Partnerships with brands like Fetch that leverage automation and tech tools with the ability to process hundreds of millions of consumer data points create actionable insights as well as new frontiers of personalization. And when brands move beyond demographics, it can be truly game-changing in impacting consumer behavior.


Are you ready to move beyond demographic data? Reach out to the Fetch team today to learn more about becoming a brand partner.

Selma Koita

Selma is a Director of Marketing at Fetch Rewards. She has a knack for brand strategy and finding brilliance in complex situations, which she has done for countless brands, both big and small, across a number of industries. As a self-described adventure-seeking, calculated risk taker, she is always up for immersing into a new experience.

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*Source: data.ai