Demographics Are Dead

There’s a 70-year-old women living in China right now, watching the same episode of the latest Netflix show as you. And, whilst you’re thinking that there’s no way you share nothing in common, big data organisations would disagree.

Demographics – such as gender, age and marital status – which defined us as consumers in the past, are dead. At the 2015 TrendWatching Seminar in NYC, experts predicted a shift towards a consumerism culture of ‘post demographics’. And oh boy! This a game changer.

Post-demographics consumerism suggests that, We, no matter our age or gender, are constructing our own identities more freely than ever. The way in which we buy, watch and use can no longer be defined by traditional demographic segments. In simple terms this means, if I search your name on Facebook I would find out more about you as a person by looking at the pages you like rather than if I looked at your age, gender and where you live.

*slowly goes back through FB account un-liking every page my 13-year-old self once like*

We are no longer a faceless group of consumers bound by time and place of birth, we are consumers with identities – we share interests, beliefs and innate human qualities like love and humour! #GoHumans

This shift is something that savvy brands are already catching on to and implementing into their innovation strategies. At the 2015 SXSW Festival, Netflix vice-president of product innovation, Todd Yellin described traditional demographics data as ‘almost useless’ for their business.

“Everyone’s instinct was, ‘Yeah, if you find out their age and gender data, that’s fantastic.” But what we learned is: it’s almost useless,” said Yellin.

“Because here’s a shocker for you, there are actually 19-year-old guys who watch ‘Dance Moms’, and there are 73-year-old women who are watching ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Avengers’.”

It’s no longer about who we are, or what we tell marketers we do, its about what we actually do. 

It’s these things we do that have organisations so intrigued. Companies have gotten smarter and smarter about how to sell content. They now know who to put the right content in front of at the right time. And this is something Netflix does better than anyone else.

I can distinctly remember the second time I ever opened my Netflix account. All of a sudden some algorithm had figured out my deepest, darkest secret… I’m a sucker for crappy rom-com TV Shows. Netflix was listing recommendations after recommendations of shows it thought I’d like. Like some creepy dating app, it even provided percentages on how compatible I and my Friday night affair would be.

Netflix gives recommendations of shows to watch based on insightful analysis of human traits. And this is where things get complicated. As we enter an era focused on targeting consumers based on what they believe in and the actions they take, where do we draw the line?

Facebook has now become one of the largest data-bases for information gathering. The global platform knows what the average person does as a day job, geo-location reveals where we spend our weekends, it knows the pages we follow, it has an archive of our photos and conversations we’ve had. It is frightening how much Facebook knows. In fact, it is not questionable to consider that Facebook may know more about ourselves than our own government does.

But this could all change in the near future. What if Facebook decided to sell off our post-demographic data to government or other organisations. Or what if Facebook’s co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg decided to use it for his own personal benefit.

Yes, this is all becoming a bit far-fetched and by no means do we need to run around screaming ‘the world is ending’ in a sense of moral panic. But! It is important to consider the power that the founders of these mass media channels and data collection platforms do have.

After all, Zuckerberg has access to the largest data base of post-demographic information. He knows which citizens like the ‘Pro-Guns’ page, who is in support of ‘Marriage Equality Australia’ and which individuals are loving ‘Donald Trump’s Hair‘. The reality is, there are a selection of individuals in large organisations who have led transition towards post-demographics. And what they will do with this power has left us all wondering….

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Zuckerberg for President in 2020?

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