When I was in sixth grade, my family moved from North Carolina to Illinois. As you might imagine in a group of middle school kids, my “southernness” — the thing that made me a little different — was a source of fascination for the first few months at my new school.
Other kids: “Hey, I like your accent.”
Me: “I have an accent?”
For most of sixth grade, I was considered a rube. A few of my fellow students made awkward assumptions about me. One kid—the class-clown type — started a rumor that my family actually had weekly hoedowns in our back yard. This rumor was so successfully disseminated throughout our small town that, at one soccer game, a friend’s mother sat down next to mine in the bleachers and gushed, “I love the way your family celebrates its culture.” Rest assured, my mom was very confused.
My point is: geographic information is perhaps not the most reliable way to make assumptions about my behavior.
Demographic info ain’t what it used to be
Is anybody surprised by this? Is anyone baffled that the old guard of demographic information — age, sex, earnings, geo — becomes less reliable year after year? As time goes by, and technology gives us access to an ever-growing diversity of culture, our personal identities will have much less to do with where we come from, and much more to do with where we’re trying to go. As Alexandra Samuel wrote so eloquently in the Harvard Business Review, psychographic information, or data that defines out interests and values, is becoming increasingly important in a world dominated by demographics.
Turns out, you don’t have to guess what people will do based on their gender or home state. With millions of users broadcasting their interests to the world via social media, why make assumptions about what people are into when they’ll just share how they feel outright?
To be fair, interest-based targeting for marketers is picking up steam, but one major hurdle is the ability to ingest all that psychographic information at scale. Sure, if I look on Miriam’s Twitter account, I can figure out pretty quick that she’s into NPR and Irish culture, but marketing companies aren’t exactly built to manually read Twitter accounts one by one.
A better approach to mapping psychographic data
That’s why we developed topic classification: the technology to process massive volumes of text and map the relevant topics to a massive hierarchy of subject matters. Suddenly, a world of social posts and browsing histories becomes a huge goldmine of psychographic data. The need to group people together into clunky demographic groups is diminishing every day, and in its place, we’re seeing the rise of intelligent marketers who can supply consumers with the things they’re already asking for.
Feel free to demo our topic classification at classify.econtext.com. I think you’ll be pleased with how your audience responds when you stop treating them like “millennials” or “southerners” or “stay at home moms”, and start engaging with them on the topics they actually care about.
Catch up with the times, hayseed.