However, over the course of my 20-plus years as a restaurant marketing and public relations professional, I have found that reliance on standard demographics can actually hinder a company’s marketing efforts for a number of reasons.
Admittedly, I used to be a by-the-book marketer who analyzed the demographic data and crunched numbers in an attempt to find the right target audience for my brand. It was not until I joined Tijuana Flats Tex-Mex that I shifted focus from the biological or economic traits of my audience and began to focus on the personality, likes, interests, and overall attitude of the various types of people we welcome in our restaurants.
If you are a marketing executive who might consider a shift away from a reliance on demographics, here are a few key reasons why a new approach to identifying audiences might be a smart marketing strategy for your brand:
• When you focus on attitude and personality, you will find that your “ideal” customers span multiple generations: One of the most common efforts in today’s marketing climate is targeting audiences by age group, especially Millennials (individuals who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century.) At Tijuana Flats, our most loyal guests span age groups from 4 years old to 65 and up. Had we focused on traditional demographics in our past and present marketing efforts, we could have missed the opportunity to cater to one of these groups.
• Identifying a certain type of person for your brand leads to a larger and more loyal customer base: Like any good relationship—and you are in a long-term, committed relationship with your customers—loyalty is earned through the existence of respect and trust. When your core customer base consists of like-minded individuals, rather than individuals who are the same gender or age, building trust through the right marketing initiatives is a much simpler, targeted, and potentially less expensive effort and can definitely lead to a larger and more loyal customer base. For example, Tijuana Flats does not shy away from its brand personality, which is characterized as a loveable, smart-ass best friend who always tells it like it is, but is the first person to have your back. As such, we embrace the creativity and somewhat snarky attitude. We realize that not everyone will like our sense of humor or innuendos—and that is OK.
• Chasing after a certain demographic means you have to constantly reinvent yourself: This does not mean that your brand will never evolve, but it does mean that your brand can remain true to itself and only change because it is the right decision to do so, not because it is what a specific demographic is expecting. For example, too many companies focus on appearing “young” or “hip,” and it often leads to marketing efforts that are not aligned with the actual brand, which in turn can alienate your current brand followers.
• The types of people you target externally can lead to finding the right people internally: People are most important to the success of any brand. A brand’s presence is only as good as the team behind it. If a company is focused solely on the hard data, it may be more difficult for them to identify team members who can take marketing efforts to a new level. Every aspect of your external brand should be reflective of your internal team.
The most important factor for any marketer who is rethinking demographics is to truly understand one’s customers on a personal level—who they are, why they come to you, why they like you, what makes them tick, etc. Listen closely to what the guests are saying. Once you have accomplished this, moving beyond demographics is an easy transition and one worth making.