No More Gender Demographics in Marketing?!

So, here’s the thing. We live in a capitalist society. That means that everything our society does is done with the goal and intention of making money. We have government and religion to try to counter-balance that, of course: we seek organization and justice; we foster love, faith, and hope. But we also want to make money. We’re all pretty convinced it’s the most important thing (whether we say it or not) because money is how we all survive.

As a result, marketing exists. We’ve gotta get the products to the people! Social psychology says that it’s too difficult to remember every individual’s traits and characteristics, so instead we have demographics.

Demographics are large groups of consumers (i.e. women, Hispanics, children, men, elderly, etc.) that are stereotyped and targeted by marketing ploys everywhere, and these individuals are targeted based on their particular demographic’s stereotypical interests, rather than their actual interests. Just like stereotypes have to be true for someone (that’s why they started in the first place), marketing to demographics sometimes works. For example, it’s probably true that women are the only ones interested in buying tampons and sanitary napkins, since they are the only ones who menstruate. Therefore it would be appropriate to target those ads at women. But sometimes targeting demographics can get out of hand, and marketers make too many unfair assumptions.

Good news! According to Johanna Blakley, social media will eventually be the end of targeting gender demographics in marketing! In fact, she hypothesizes that it will be the end of all demographic-targeting in marketing. This will be big…if it’s true.

She seems to have forgotten the amount of demographic information we have the opportunity to share on social media sites like Facebook. Age? Yes. Sex? Yes. Sexual orientation? Yes. Certainly Facebook at least knows my sex and my orientation, and even whether I’m single or taken! What’s to say ads aren’t targeted at me based on that? I would love to hear some authority on the subject.

Here’s what I think. I remember one day looking at that sidebar on my Facebook page and thinking: “Hey, I do like Ingrid Michaelson and The L Word!” It was brilliant!

Then I thought it was annoying. Suddenly ads for gay parades and vampire lesbian movies kept popping up on my side bar day after day and I couldn’t help but feel like they thought I was nothing more than a woman who likes women. I am…and I do… but I also like guitars, Star Wars, books and theatre. Where are those ads?! Certainly they pop up too, but not nearly with as much dizzying frequency. I love her theory and I am optimistic that she’s right, but so far, my experience makes me skeptical.

What do you think? Do you agree with her theory? Do you think social media is really having the effect she claims it’s having?


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