Forget Demographics. Target Communities Instead

Don Draper makes it look so easy, doesn’t he? Sipping scotch, sleeping all day, writing a few tag-lines when he feels like it. Well, back then it really was that easy.

I know, I know… I’m not in a position to claim such a thing. My parents were as old as Don’s children at that time and I was only due to arrive 25 years later.

But still, it really was that easy.

You know why? Because everyone was identical back then. You were either a rich golf-playing-cigar-smoking-suit-wearing gentleman or you worked for one. Your kids either listened to the Beatles or to the Stones. Your wife only had 5 TV shows to choose from. It was all so simple.

New media like digital TV and that damn interweb-thing fucked everything up. Old-day marketers are scratching their heads. Self-proclaimed gurus are telling them to target their efforts towards more specific demographics and make their campaigns more relevant for these profiles.

And my generation gets hired to manage those hundreds of new campaigns online – cause we’re digital natives, so we’ll make their old-school campaigns work for social media… right?

NO! This needs to stop. Really. It’s going nowhere.

You can’t target demographics anymore. It’s not because I’m in my early twenties, listen to Hip Hop and wear sneakers that I’ll buy your cap and oversized T-Shirts. Or download Drake’s latest album.

I hate Drake.

New media enabled us to absorb information from a zillion different sources and create our own unique identity. No single message is strong enough anymore to affect our behavior or make us buy a product. But there’s one thing that still has that power.


We all belong to communities. Humans have a strong need to belong to communities. And unlike the sixties where people were part of just a few, we belong to hundreds of different communities based around products, people, entities, lifestyles, ….

My communities for instance evolve around: Nike Air Max 1 and Dunks, Apple Products, Branding, DJing, Entrepreneurship, Brussels, London, Notorius B.I.G., J Dilla, Duvel beer, Supra Bailly (my home-pub), Formula 1, …

I’m actively involved in some, less in others. But those are all topics you can get me talking about for hours. And that’s what a community is about. A need to communicate with likeminded people about your interest.

Why do I always buy the latest Apple products, pay way too much for my Eurostar tickets or spend nights dreaming up new business plans with my mates while drinking Duvels at the Supra Bailly in Brussels?

Not because someone told me I should do so. But because I believe in the ethos and values of those communities. That’s who I am. That’s what I do.

I consume passions, not just products.

The 21st century marketer’s challenge is to engage with communities relevant to his brand. If he manages to engage in an authentic way -with as much passion for the community as I have- he won’t even need to give me his sales pitch. I will be drawn to his brand.

Just like how Instagram became the ultimate symbol of ‘hipsterdom’ or how Red Bull became the face and backbone of the extreme sports culture.

It’s time for marketers to identify relevant communities, understand them, participate and become a passionate member.

Stop wondering how to make your next quick buck. Start figuring out how to engage with relevant communities.

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