Marketers could be missing out on appealing to receptive consumers as new research dispels myths around the use of traditional marketing segments. Although some demographic groups continue to show a strong affinity with particular brands, they are often not the ones marketers would naturally expect.

The study by Network Research of 1,500 UK consumers looks at how people relate to some of the UK’s most popular brands based on rational and emotional attitudes, which reveal an alternative view on traditional age, gender, income and social grade segmentation.

It shows consumers might be better targeted by their attitudes and gives examples of sectors that might need to alter the way they think about audiences. An example is TSB, which historically had an older, financially conservative audience before the brand merged with Lloyds Bank in 1995; yet the research shows that early adopters heavily favour the relaunched company, which offers an opportunity to think less conservatively about channel and product propositions.

The study also shows that people with the highest concern about security of their personal data are aged over 65, 89.7% of whom say they are worried. This will not come as a surprise, but personal security concerns score highly too with those aged 25 to 34 (83.4%).

Furthermore, people with these worries are found to be more negative about all brands. Network Research says what unites these consumers more than age is their inherent mistrust of, and subsequent weak relationships with, the majority of prominent brands. David Pritchard, client development director at Network Research, says: “Just looking at young people [as a target market] doesn’t give a brand granularity and they might be missing out on an enormous part of a prospective audience.”

He adds: “If I was a marketer, I would want something more nuanced and more granular than simply saying we are going after single men aged 18 to 25 because they are our target audience.”

Instead, Pritchard believes there is value in asking why this group is a target audience, what attracts them, what makes them engage in the category and why are they a viable audience for the brand.

The study reveals that one demographic marker – having children – is still a big factor in the likelihood of recommending a brand. For M&S, 64.7% of those with children are likely to recommend the retailer versus 35.6% without. It is a similar story for Samsung, with 68.9% of those with children recommending the brand compared to 31.1% of those without.

Waitrose is the only brand out of 20 named in the study to be more popular with people without children than with those with. The supermarket also over-indexes for recommendation among consumers interested in fit and healthy lifestyles. A consumer’s marital status has a major bearing on attitudes towards brands, as 60.3% of those in couples would recommend Sky, for instance, compared to only 16.5% of those who are single.

In an age of Tinder, online dating and marketing to singles, it is generally assumed by marketers that single people are much more self- and image-conscious than those in a relationship. The recent advertising campaign for is based on this premise. However, the study indicates that singles are far less likely to be concerned with other people’s opinions than those in relationships.

Meanwhile, budget clothing retailer Primark might be assumed to be preferred more strongly by less affluent consumers, but the research shows that those in social grade AB are as likely to recommend the brand as people in C1, at 21.8% and 23.1% respectively. Therefore, for a mass-market brand such as Primark social grades are probably of little value despite its low cost positioning, though brands targeting high-net-worth individuals may obviously find them more useful.

Another marketing misconception, according to the report, is the idea that eco-friendly products and green messaging are of less relevance for consumers in lower income bands and that the natural target is the middle class. The study shows that people in low-income bands are as likely as the average consumer to care about the environment.

Although the report states that traditional demographics serve a purpose in many situations, focusing more on attitudinal segments could uncover important, actionable insights for brands that would otherwise remain undiscovered. Pritchard says the report is not suggesting tearing up demographic segments and starting again. “It understands that audiences lie outside of your traditional target and there are other attitudes and behaviours that will lead people to engage with your brand and your category.”

  • Ben Blackbourn

    Interesting read. I get the point the writer is trying to make however by using attitude as sole target audience definition, I think you would end up being too broad and your communications channels and messages being diluted across varying audiences?

    Attitude for me in most cases is the starting point to see the interested parties of who you could possibly target or your base of different segments that you can target with different campaign and products.

    Then on the other hand there are examples that proves the articles argument i.e apple, coke etc. I just think the examples they give are a bit off – yes Lloyds have young consumers as well but that doesn’t mean they don’t segment by age.


    • Claudio Simone

      agree entirely Ben

    • Network Research

      Completely agree, Ben! However, in our experience, many big brands/clients neglect the ‘softer’ audience targeting brought about by attitudes. While they might know their audience demographics well, they may be missing the bigger picture of why people in (and outside of) their ‘traditional’ audience engage.

  • LeShann

    Correct me if I’m wrong but if your segment is defined by ABC and marital status, you’re not targeting attitudes, you’re still targeting sociodemo. The only thing you’re doing is realizing that your target segment was probably too narrow, which is a good thing, but couldn’t a good old buyer profile have easily told you that?

    • Network Research

      Absolutely, LeShann. However, buyer profiling is a dangerous game – missing out on those opportunities for growth you didn’t previously know!

  • Julie Aebersold

    Great read. Researching attitude is an excellent way to make sure you don’t miss out on an important target audience. It’s crucial for brands to relate to consumers on deeper levels.. such as the attitudes mentioned in this article, especially concerning the TSB example. Demographics such as age may not be enough. Macro research is important, but micro research can be just as effective in reaching your target audience

    • Network Research

      “Demographics such as age may not be enough”
      Our sentiments exactly. But clients tend to take a little more persuading than that…