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The impact of demographics on advertising


Your advertising activities should be an important component of a carefully thought-out strategic marketing plan. Organizations typically budget no more than 1-3 percent of their operating budget towards their important advertising/communications mix. So, with available dollars limited and constantly emerging advertising opportunities, demographics matter if you are to effectively reach your clients, donors or buyers.

Some of the demographics that narrow your target groups are: age (Gen Z’s, millennials, Gen X’s, baby boomers), income, geographic locale, gender, and personal interests (e.g., outdoors focus, religion, sports). The marketing challenge is identifying the best advertising means for each segment or group you seek to reach. As a further complication, your planned ads often need to reach several diverse demographic groups.

Industry approaches

Consider a few industry approaches. First, in higher education, high school Gen Z’s are the  target group. It is amazingly easy to reach the market segment of high school students by geographic area that plan to go to college, along with their intended college major interests and even SAT and ACT scores. The score companies sell the lists! So to reach this segment, just match the demographic habits of the prospective students through different digital formats and advertising approaches.

But to reach their parents and families — often key decision-makers — a mix of advertising in more traditional television, print, and direct mail options also is needed. Demographic data for television advertising is available for most cable and mainstream channels. Comcast Spotlight is really helpful for cable advertising — the company can segment or narrow down program recommendations to reach the few shows that the high school students watch with their families. That would be an especially effective ad buy for a college.

The financial services industry needs to target several age groups of individuals, from those starting to earn and grow income and up to those planning imminent retirement. Encouraging millennials to seek financial advice has been a recent industry goal. Conferences and webinars on reaching this large demographic segment have been almost daily occurrences for quite a while.

The younger prospects clearly require more education in this arena, so promotional approaches may simply need to identify and develop face time opportunities with this segment. Utilizing financial advisers closer in age to the individuals and then personal follow-ups seems to be a good pathway.

Event sponsorships are an outstanding way to get a firm or business brand name in front of this desired demographic group of successful up-and-coming 30-somethings.

Product advertising

Advertising for products also needs demographic goals. For the jewelry business, successful businesses like Smyths Jewelers comes to mind. In addition to bricks-and-mortar marketing approaches, such as effective store locations and the unique giant engagement ring in front of its Timonium store, Smyths targets different demographics through diverse levels of in-store product price point merchandising and through customer services.

From an advertising perspective, Smyths uses a mix of approaches. A few of the ways it reaches different age groups include: creative billboards near the stores in high traffic areas; carefully crafted and polished television spots for engaged individuals (produced by local TBC and airing on local news and sports); and special events announced by email and postcards to its captured customer base are. Special seasonal activities like a recent in-store Santa event helped to capture a desirable young parent market segment.

One size does not fit all in the diverse world of demographics and advertising effectiveness. To further complicate the matter, the ads and approaches for the different segments need different copy focus and formats. Marketing challenges abound, and strategic planning is needed.

Glenda LeGendre is principal of Marketing & Strategic Communications and can be reached at [email protected]