The End of All Demographic Stereotypes?
My book is called WE ARE ALL THE SAME AGE NOW but the Valuegraphics Database proves that people described by any demographic label: age, gender, income, marital status, and more, hardly resemble each other at all.
The End of ALL Demographic Stereotypes
Demographics have been a functionally useful segmentation tool for a very long time, and they are still a handy way to define one group of people and compare them to another. However, we have a tendency to try and use demographics to go one step further; to provide insight and understanding about what people want, and how they will behave. Millennials like avocado toast, men like sports, girls like pink, and rich people want luxury logos, right?
More and more, the social pressures that encouraged demographic conformity are collapsing. Nobody acts their age anymore. Wealthy people don’t necessarily believe one thing or another any more than middle-income earners do. Gender roles continue to evolve. Any accuracy that demographics may have once had as a tool to glean predictive insights about an audience of people has disappeared.
Just how inaccurate are these demographic stereotypes?
We analyzed data from 100,000 surveys, collected to create a random stratified statistically representative sample of the population of Canada and the United States. We measured 380 variables about what people value, want, need and expect, with a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of 3.5%, making this database more rigorously accurate than what would be required for a PhD from any Ivy League university.
What follows is the percentage of agreement we found within some of the most commonly used demographic segments, across all surveys and all variables we tested. In other words, these numbers show how often people of one age, gender, income or marital status agree with each other.
For example, the first number in the chart indicates that men agree with other men on the 380 variables in the survey 13% of the time. Read on to see how little agreement we found within these common demographic segments.
SEGMENT % AGREEMENT ABOUT ALL 380 VARIABLES
Less than $50k: 4%
$50k to $100k: 9%
$100k to $250k: 13%
$250k +: 19%
Married / Living in Relationship: 7%
Committed, Living apart: 8%
Happily Single: 14%
Grumpy Single: 9%
1 Child Single Parent: 17%
2 or More, Single Parent: 13%
1 Child Two Parents: 7%
2 or More, Two Parents: 9%
No Children: 4%
So how can we understand each other more accurately?
The data we analyzed confirmed that demographics are an extremely inaccurate profiling tool. But what also emerged is a discovery that can change the way we look at the world.
People who told us that certain beliefs or issues were extremely important to them agreed with everyone else who felt similarly in a very significant way.
For example, 11% of the population of Canada and the USA reported that they were restless, always looking for new adventures, new things to do, new places to go and new people to meet. We call this group the Adventure Club, and they agree with each other on all 380 variables – all the values, wants, needs and expectations in the database – 89% of the time. Compared to Generation X, for example, members of the Adventure Club are eight times more alike.
In the book We Are All the Same Age Now, David Allison introduces the end result of this research, a new way to profile target audiences, which he has named Valuegraphics. Instead of relying on flawed demographic stereotypes to understand groups of people, Valuegraphics provides an accurate and powerful way to predict what people want, and what messages will influence their behaviour the most.