Editorial: Media owners do well to address new behaviour

The sight of an adult on a micro scooter may still raise an eyebrow, but it's not rare. Likewise, there's nothing unusual about a pre-teen clutching an iPod. Today, mothers get their beauty advice from their daughters, rather than the other way around.

These days, consumers don't fit into tightly defined demographic groups, especially those defined by age ("Trendspotting goes mainstream", page 28). Such observations make the current system of targeting consumers appear crude. We are entrenched in a system of old-fashioned demographics.

Although they enable advertisers to hit a large slice of their target audience, they risk ignoring new customers.

One way around this is to conduct intricate studies into behavioural purchasing: find out exactly who your customers are and then target them specifically. Tesco is the biggest example of this, using data from its Clubcard loyalty programme. Advertisers can discover what their customers' leisure activities are, for instance, and then let them know about special offers.

But such activity is still very limited in its application. Advertisers will always be reliant on an existing customer base and it doesn't enable access, say, to the rivals of Tesco.

However, media owners are reacting. They are opening up the appeal of their products. More 4, for instance, has launched to an adult audience.

It is no more tightly targeted than that. It is designed to appeal to everyone from young parents, to grandparents, to business executives.

The Sunday Times' Style magazine, meanwhile, has just relaunched to broaden its appeal to men. However, its existing female audience is unlikely to notice, as instead of launching dedicated male-oriented pages, some of the features have been designed to have an untargeted appeal.

As today's consumers aren't sticking to the interests traditionally associated with their respective demographic groups, canny media owners will have to respond with content that doesn't expect them to.

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