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.

Advertisements
ad age digital 2012

My Experience at “Ad Age Digital” 2012

A few weeks ago I jumped on a plane across the Atlantic to New York to go to one of the highlights of the 2012 Digital Marketing Event Calendar; Ad Age Digital 2012. This 3 day event was where marketing, technology and media combined; where the biggest brands meet the most innovative start-ups and the new technologies that are transforming business.

In terms of key things to take away from the event, yes there were business cards, mints, pens, goodie packs and insight into some fast moving Digital Technology on the way. Above all of these things though, the one thing that really resonated with me as a marketer and creative thinker was that technology and innovation mean nothing alone. Of course they open up new possibilities and ways to distribute and engage with content, BUT without a strong brand, a story, and an audience that will connect with these things and share it, technology is simply an engine without fuel.

The Online Advertising Game is Changing

Digital advertising is a beast of an industry across desktop, mobile and apps. It has for a decade or more and still is being been sold, viewed and clicked on a massive scale in largely a (from the advertisers perspective) “You are on a digital platform that my ads are on, and you fit a demographic that says you might click, so I’m okay with that…” model.

One of the key aspects of the conference talked about by many speakers such as David Karp, CEO of Tumblr and Tim Ellis, CMO of Activision, was that to consumers of digital, which is basically everyone, content is what matters to us most. They talked about how there was much more activity and engagement on content driven ads for instance off the back of articles, after exposure to the brand in context to a video clip or social mention. In short it told us that users have a “Tell me something that interests and connects me to you, and then ask me to engage further, and I just might…” approach.

It’s no longer enough to have a social presence and not have content that emotionally connects with your audiences.

It really remains to be seen how long traditional online advertising will be around for. The signs aren’t good. People engage with brands and their stories and this is the traffic builder and driver behind connection to their audiences. That’s how the Nike, Old Spice and Starbuck’s of this world do it. They invest in brand and content; content that connects with their audiences and that encourages their customer’s to become brand advocates online and offline.

Emotional Media: A New Name for Social Media

So we all know that social media, along with mobile is a leading growth area in digital marketing right now. If you aren’t visible on social networks, you’re going a long way to becoming invisible, full stop. This event reinforced that fact. One of the resonating things that I was left with from the event was that social and digital engagement is increasingly emotional. It makes sense if you think about it but you have to keep reminding yourself about it when looking at digital strategies.

It’s no longer enough to have a social presence and not have content that emotionally connects with your audiences. There’s too much choice; if you don’t give audiences what they need to satisfy them emotionally, you can forget it. The internet used to be a task based platform, a place to get stuff done and find things out. Not any more…

Jonah Peretti founder and CEO of social-focused news site Buzzfeed put it brilliantly in his keynote at the event:

“Marketers and media companies need to tap into their emotional sides to understand what works. But first, they need to get beyond their bad habits formed by the portal-and-search era… We started thinking it’s a game or an algorithm when really it’s about humans and what we want to share and making things that are worth sharing,” he said.

If I saw this on my Facebook wall would I click it, would I have an emotion, would I laugh and then would I want to share it with other people. And when I share it with other people would it make me look like I’m a good person or look smart or would it make me look a jerk?

“Understanding the social web doesn’t mean [just] being smart. Too often we’ll sit in a conference room and brainstorm the smartest strategy and try to find the smartest person to figure out how to get stuff to work on Facebook and Twitter.”

“Instead it’s about “looking at a piece of content and saying, ‘If I saw this on my Facebook wall would I click it, would I have an emotion, would I laugh and then would I want to share it with other people. And when I share it with other people would it make me look like I’m a good person or look smart or would it make me look a jerk?” That is so true; every interaction in the social web is emotional on so many direct and indirect levels. That makes a social marketer’s job a very difficult one indeed.

So Finally…

Ultimately it was a great event and certainly I am aware now more than ever, that digital media and strategies will not fully realise their potential without a strong brand focus, a brand story to tell, time spent investing in content and making emotional connections that people will engage with, advocate and share.