Demographics is dead – Here comes Personality Profiling!

Demographics is dead – Here comes Personality Profiling! - Artificial Jewellery

Just when we thought that demographics are key to developing effective selling strategies, maybe we should think again. Let BRIAN WALKER explain how retailers could go the right path.

Australia’s total retail spend in pre-COVID (2019) was $320 billion. Based on an average of 5 per cent direct and indirect spending to attract customers, around $16 billion is spent each year on marketing.

If you ascribe to John Wanamaker’s ’theory’ that 50 per cent of all advertising and marketing is fundamentally wasted, about $8 billion per year is wasted, or at least, ineffective.

Has our traditional perspective of demographic studies (gender, age, postcode, etc) led to the ‘well-spent 50 per cent’ versus the other ‘wasted’ half?

Can we see a definitive link to demographics and brand resonance other than a generalised, largely unconnected relationship?

More importantly, in the digital age, can store and website design, marketing segmentation and customer navigation, be accurately predicted and mapped through traditional demographics?

Perhaps, in an assumptive manner, however, today there are more definitive methods in understanding consumer profiling or personality types.

Traditional demographics is not enough

Growing up, we were made aware of the ‘rational consumer’ – where all buying decisions were rational and demographics ruled the world. As retailers, we devise campaigns to attract customers whom we believe would make clear decisions with respect to age, gender and location.

But guess what? Humans are irrational – bound by degrees of our emotional senses.

Not many people realise that:

• 95 per cent of new products fail
• Physical stores only convert an average of 30 per cent
• Online retailers only convert 3 per cent on average
• 98 per cent of direct mail gets no response
• 98 per cent of marketing emails don’t convert

Your brand as a human being

Think about your retail brand being made up of a unique set of values, which create its personality to attract consumers with the same values. As with product brands, values are emotional and largely subconscious. Humans build friendships based on trust and shared values are consistent and reliable.

The same applies in building brand relationships. Thus, classic demographic profiling methods simply don’t work because they ‘speak’ to consumers as rational beings – and we now know there’s no such thing as a rational consumer.

Humanising your brand means tapping into these subconscious and inherent values to understand consumers on an intimate and emotional level.

Demographics out – profiling in

Consumer neuroscience posits that the subconscious limbic system influences 95 per cent of decisions. It’s the part of the brain involved in our behavioural and emotional responses, and answers the question of why customers behave the way they do and it’s not random or unpredictable.

Imagine a fashion brand for women with an income of over $1 million, aged 25 to 35, – a classic demographic segmentation and two women in this segment are Queen of Pop, Katy Perry and future ‘queen’ of England, Kate Middleton.

However, both women are worlds apart – their life and fashion choices determined by personality types, which explains the ‘why’.

Another example: a man who purchases a shirt from a store every three months and did so for the last two years. His preferred shirt style is known, however not ‘why’ he chose the store, selected the shirt or chose the time to purchase.

What subconscious mechanisms influence a person’s decision to purchase five items out of a possible 25,000 SKUs? The Limbic system acts as a relevance detector whether a stimulus – such as packaging or product design – can either be relevant or not, whether we perceive it at all, and choose a product off-the-shelf.

What resonates with us – before we are aware of it – occurs in the Limbic system. So, when it comes to packaging, branding and overall product design, recognising what your target customers’ most dominant emotional system is crucial.

It determines whether a product or brand stands out, attracts and enables customers to identify ’the one’ amongst the sea of sameness. We were focused on ‘how’ consumers interact with our brands, when the missing link has always been “why” consumers choose our brands.

Neuroscience allows us to better understand personality profiles and subconscious emotional drivers, and we figure out the connection with certain brands.

Behind each personality type is an amazing set of subconscious drivers, which determines how, why and whether or not consumers will interact with brands. After all, it’s a 50/50 chance they are right.


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