Social Media. Is it the end of Gender Based Marketing?

If you hadn’t noticed, our media climate generally provides a much distorted mirror of our lives and of our gender, and I think that’s going to change massively as social media and advertising continues to evolve quickly. Most media formats, television, radio, publishing, games, you name it – they use very rigid segmentation methods in order to understand their audiences. It’s old-school demographics and we at Mammoth also have to play by the rules when designing and producing media plan driven campaigns for the above channels. It’s a massive part of the marketing driven world we live in. I always though found it slightly presumptuous that companies believe that if you fall within a certain demographic, then you are predictable in certain ways – you have certain taste, that you like certain things. And so the bizarre but very real result of this is that for the last 80 years or more, most of our popular culture is actually based on these presumptions about our demographics.

All the people who participate in social media networks belong to the same old demographic categories that media companies and advertisers have used in order to understand them. But those categories mean even less now than they did before; it’s much easier for us to escape some of our demographic boxes. We’re able to connect with people quite freely and to redefine ourselves online. And we can lie about our age online, too, pretty easily. We can also connect with people based on our very specific interests. We don’t need a ‘media company’ to help do this for us.

I always though found it slightly presumptuous that companies believe that if you fall within a certain demographic, then you are predictable in certain ways – you have certain taste, that you like certain things.

We know, along with all other media agencies worldwide that this is the mass audience of the future. But everyone is having a hard time doing it because they’re still trying to use demographics in order to understand them, because that’s how ad rates are still determined. When they are managing your clickstream – ‘and you know they are’ – they have a really hard time figuring out your age, your gender and your income. They can make some educated guesses. But they get a lot more information about what you do online, what you like, what interests you. That’s easier for them to find out than who you are. And even though that’s still sort of creepy, there is an upside to having your taste monitored. Suddenly our taste is being respected in a way that it hasn’t been before. It had been ‘presumed’ before by traditional media.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while as I am a big advocate of behaviour based marketing, not demographic based and that’s where social media helps break the norm. So when you look online at the way people aggregate, they don’t aggregate around age, gender and income. They aggregate around the things they love, the things that they like, and if you think about it, shared interests and values are a far more powerful aggregator of human behaviour than demographic categories. As an advertiser I’d much rather know whether you like Chinese food, horror movies and ski holidays in France rather than how old you are. That would tell me something more substantial about you.

It’s a Woman’s World

If you look at the statistics in every single age category, women actually outnumber men in their use of social networking technologies. And then if you look at the amount of time that they spend on these sites, they truly dominate the social media space, which is a space that’s having a huge impact on old media. The question is: what sort of impact is this going to have on our culture, and what’s it going to mean for women? If the case is that social media is dominating old media and women are dominating social media, then does that mean that women are going to take over global media? Are we suddenly going to see a lot more female characters in cartoons and in games and on TV shows? Will the next big-budget blockbuster movies actually be chick flicks?

Well, that’s going to be the case. I think women are actually going to be – ironically enough – responsible for driving a stake through the heart of cheesy genre categories like the “chick flick” and all these other genre categories that presume that certain demographic groups like certain things.

I firmly believe that if you want to understand the global village, it’s probably a good idea that you figure out what they’re passionate about, what amuses them, what they choose to do in their free time. This is a very important thing to know about people. The vast and growing volume and influence in social media and user generated content is enabling this to become a reality.

So imagine a digital world that isn’t dominated by stereotypes about gender and other demographic characteristics. I can’t wait to find out what it looks like and the signs show that it’s already starting.


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