May 2, 2015

The end of demographics – don’t give up on them just yet

Ever since I started working in marketing (some 15 years ago), there have always been articles popping up now and again about how demographics just aren’t relevant any more and that instead we should think about more diverse and exciting ways to group and understand people. Well, as with any categorical statement, it’s possible to find some things which jiggle around and make the situation appear less black and white.

Let’s start with some examples of products which are explicitly going for a particular demographic. I have found a rich seam of manifestations in Romania, perhaps as there is less interest in playing around with established stereotypes and more of a need to establish those stereotypes in the first place to ensure the right type of consumer becomes your customer. There’s a yogurt brand in Romania with the fabulous name of Zazu Max, as well as a beer brand, Bergenbier which has campaigned for a ‘Man’s Day’ to balance out the existing Women’s Day. And of course we mustn’t forget Yorkie, which has had a bit of a troubled relationship with its ‘for men/not for girls’ stance.

And when it comes to women, it’s not even clear that businesses are even able to target them correctly, let alone move on from thinking in terms of gender. The recent This Girl Can campaign from Sport England comes to mind, which has demonstrated that talking to women about physical activity can involve taking a very different approach to the sleek and slick approach which many sports brands use. All the chatter and excitement This Girl Can has raised demonstrates that bothering to properly understand women and address them in a way that resonates with their true concerns is still important. And I haven’t even got started on the never-ending ‘real beauty’ stories which Dove is using to engage women.

Age is another interesting area. Here some of the standard statements which tend to get trotted out might say we don’t act our age anymore and thus age-based approaches aren’t relevant; and then again, we also hear that there is a dearth of advertising which shows older consumers for what they are. Instead young models, who alienate rather than inspire, always crop up.

There have recently been a rash of adverts which do show women d’un certain age and which don’t try to pretend that being of that age is anything other being of that age. L’Oreal has used older women to general acclaim. Or perhaps we are in fact seeing this ageing trend going too far and it’s working in reverse, where ‘elderly models’ are used to make younger oldies feel more sprightly. The below quote from a recent Guardian article on the Celine advertising using Joan Didion explores this idea:

“Much of the appeal of Céline’s campaign lies in the fact that it speaks to the label’s key target market – affluent women in their 40s and 50s – who appreciate the fact that they are open-minded and edgy and educated enough to get it. These women are sick of being bombarded with images of dewy-skinned youth, and will drink up suggestions that 80 is the new 18. Céline’s campaign is classy, of course, and respectfully celebrates a woman its creative director admirers. But there is something about the wider trend for casting older women to make middle-aged and younger women feel great that feels rather cynical.”

As someone who is now getting close to undeniable middle-agedom, I know that I should be paying more attention to those wrinkle cream and hair dye adverts. I need to acknowledge my own demographics.

I can't ignore the sands of time


October 11, 2011

Postez comme vous vivez!

Filed under: Uncategorized — by xrematon @ 10:35 am
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The above exhortation (roughly translated as ‘Post to suit you and your lifestyle’) comes from an ad that struck my eye as I was flicking through Femme Actuelle (the French equivalent of Women’s Own). I won’t digress on justifying my choice of literature, nor on the other ads I noticed – except perhaps the one for my favourite beauty product: an anti-ageing facial cream made with a magic formula containing snake venom. Father Christmas – please take note!

So what was so interestingabout this one (see below) from the French Post Office?



It seems simple enough – an announcement about new postal rates on offer. French consumers can choose from the ‘Green letter’ which is delivered in 48 hours, is cheaper and greener (through a commitment to avoid using plane transport); the ‘Priority letter’ for next day delivery; and finally the oddest one of all, the ‘Online letter’ which is printed out and delivered. Dig a little deeper and there are many interesting angles to explore.

Firstly, I pity poor French consumers who now have to negotiate the additional complexity these rates create. They already had to deal with three different possible weights for letters (20g, 50g or 100g, whereas in the UK, we only have to work out whether something weights more than 100g); and now they have to think  about delivery speed. Want to know more? There are four documents to download (each of four pages) which explain all the different options.

Secondly, what about this ‘Green letter’? I must confess I am not convinced. Offering consumers a lower standard of service (slower delivery) as more ‘economical’ (by a trivial three cents) and more ecological smacks of blatant greenwashery. Carrying out a little further research also reveals how disingenous this green claim is. Though the letters will not be transported by plane, they will go on the road (a plan to use TGVs to replace the postal air fleet sold in 2007 has so far come to nothing). In addition, as the French Post Office has gone through a period of rationalisation, a number of sorting offices have been closed meaning that the distances the lorries travel has in fact increased over recent years.

Finally, it also raises issues for workers. (How could one write about a French public service without including something from unhappy civil servants). According to the trade union for postal workers in southern France, offering a slower service means that fewer workers will be required on the night shift. Whilst they recognise night shifts are not for everybody, the union berate the government for not recognising the rights and routines of their workers.

After all that, I think I would rather stick to emails!

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