It’s aspirational to push, to re-invent, to be unpredictable.  Changing direction makes us feel alive. We are no longer constrained by what has gone before. Conforming is passé.

73 year -old women are watching Breaking Bad on Netflix.

So how can we better predict or understand our audiences in a time when anything and everything goes. When our tried and tested consumer groups are un-recognizable and increasingly unpredictable? Whilst live data has allowed us to better understand what our audiences do and consume, it may not be the answer to understanding how to better define our audiences.  Live data only tells us what, and not why? Live data doesn’t unpack real human sentiment or insight.

Time to take a big step back, to embrace our inner flâneur and find the new social glue that holds people together above traditional segmentation. As our world becomes increasingly flat age and gender neutral, perhaps better understanding culture is the secret to helping us unpack and put audiences into new neat little boxes?

Openly push against cultural stereotypes

If no one wants to be put in a box, then we need to push against tradition and embrace the explosion of social change and re-invention. Brands are starting to see the value in being a part of this changing narrative, by focusing on issues that unite and push against expectations.

Gender-neutral society and parenting

John Lewis put a stake in the ground whilst socially active parents were slamming the likes of Morrisons for putting repressive statements on their girl’s clothing range.  As a new wave of parents wanted to avoid the gender gap, supermarkets amongst others hadn’t caught on. John Lewis did though. They decided to rip down ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ signage and help parents chose clothing themselves. A very simple action - that delivered mass attention.

New male sensitivity

For years Lynx had given men strength to be the alpha male. But new research looked into what it was to be male and found that men thought they had to behave a certain way to be accepted, even if they were scared. From this Unilever created #Isitokforguys , a platform where guys can talk about masculinity behind closed doors.

Rik Strubel, Lynx Global Vice President, at Unilever said, “We want guys to see there’s no holds barred on what men can or cannot be. We need to help more men by tackling toxic masculinity, head on. Our aim is to create an inclusive society where everyone – men and women – can be who they damn well want to be”.

Credit: Lynx, 'Is it ok for guys?' 

Credit: Lynx, 'Is it ok for guys?' 

Mattel also explored male sensitivity and gender roles with their recent campaign ‘Dads who play Barbie’ showing amazing moments Dad’s can have with their daughters if they pick up a Barbie.

The world is complex. Stereotype advertising is an easier beast to navigate and sometimes hide behind. But being safe and conformant can only last so long.  It pays to unearth the ugly and the unexpected to better connect with our audiences.

Credit: Mattel, Dads Who Play with Barbie

Credit: Mattel, Dads Who Play with Barbie

Defining audiences through the weird and the wonderful

We avoid starting off in generalist insight, because expected behavior is boring and doesn’t give us something interesting to go off. What we need is an unexpected insight that can dramatically change our point of view.  Surely, if grannies are watching Breaking Bad, then there should be more interesting ways to connect than though their old age?  We think so!

‘Post- demographic profiling’ is our way of better defining audiences; looking above, under and through standard profiling segments. Unlocking insights from across culture, celebrity following, fashion, music and strange obsessions. We believe finding out the weird and the absurd takes us naturally to more interesting places, whilst providing a clearer understanding of who we are actually talking to. It gives us nuance.

If our audiences thrive off being un-predictable, then we need to be un-predictable too! We like un-predictable planning.

Our top 5 tips for adopting a post-demographic approach:

  1. Stop fragmenting & start uniting – find commonalities that bring individuals together not apart

  2. Throw away the rule-book and start again from scratch. Historical data is just that, history. Need to be current and contextual.

  3. Don’t rely on pages of data. Take a step back and observe real people and real culture

  4. Nuances define – start from a lifestyle points and break down your audiences from there

  5. Don’t be afraid of the absurd or the weird. Creativity thrives off the alternative.


Putting our thinking into practice

We've helped Victorinox make their brand and products relevant to new younger audiences, by finding cultural glue that holds the audiences together and adapting the brand story to fit that cultural mindset.

Through identifying new audience segments beyond the typical needs - house renovators and students - we connected through toy car lovers, gamers, who are likely to consider self storage. We focused all of Safestore's content and social marketing around one creative platform that could speak to multiple audience needs.