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‘Customers’ are dead: Why traditional audience profiling won't work

October 22, 2021

'Customers' are dead. Gone. Goodbye. Out of here.

Real people who once translated into numbers, buyers and small dots on big graphs are now having their hyper-individualised needs, wants and values acknowledged. Ditch the old-school marketing strategies, stick traditional audience profiling in the bin – here’s why it pays to get personal.

Understand your audience

Historically, getting under the skin of the people that matter most often meant demographic segmentation. Or a selection of rigid, one-size-fits-all boundaries to build up a picture of who you were trying to reach. Age. Gender. Income. Ethnicity. Not only have those concepts been consistently challenged and remoulded over recent years, but they’re bypassing individual information that could be the difference between a brand that sticks and one that doesn’t.

That said, traditional demographics have been and will continue to be helpful. But as social media connects us like never before and new technologies open our minds to different ways of thinking, you can learn more nuanced details about who your audience is and what they really want.

Think about two 20-year-olds living in a north London borough. Same age, same pay grade, same relationship status. They might sound similar, but they’ll almost definitely have different interests and values. One could be a banker who’s passionate about organic farming, loves to play football and values businesses that give back to the community. The other could be a personal trainer who thrives on cultural events, museums and ground-breaking technologies. Both have unique lifestyles, needs and expectations, so they’ll almost certainly be looking for different tactics from brands, too.

So, what’s the answer?

HX: traditional marketing evolved

Think about how much your expectations have changed over the last year, let alone the last five years. Now think about how likely it is that your audience feels the same. In fact, 66% of people in a recent survey expect companies to understand their needs and wants, yet 66% say they’re generally treated like numbers. By shifting your brand’s goalposts, you have a better chance of understanding these needs and building something your audience has come to expect – a strong ‘human experience’ (HX).

It’s not ‘customer’ experience (remember what we said about them earlier). And it’s not user experience, which is focused on how consumers use a brand touchpoint, like a website. No, human experience is simply how a living, breathing, feeling human being experiences a brand, product or service. And it’s built on the premise that an individual’s beliefs, values, feelings and ambitions are the cornerstones of who they are and what they want from businesses they buy from. It’s human-centric, forward-thinking and crucial for your brand to consider in a post-Covid world.

Hyper-personalization = success

In today’s world of individuals, there are many dimensions to building strong human experience. One of them being hyper-personalization. In a nutshell: using behavioural data to offer people relevant content and customised messaging. AKA: making them feel special.

Using someone’s name in an email is a personalized approach. Combining data and, in some cases, artificial intelligence (AI) to connect with people on person level is a hyper-personalized approach. Entire businesses are being built on the latter.

From EasyJet’s recent 20th-anniversary emails, which gave passengers interesting, personalized travel stats from the last 20 years (like their percentage of window seat journeys), to Spotify’s AI-powered music recommendations through unique Discover Weekly playlists – brands are seeing the benefits of a solid hyper-personalization strategy. The likes of which can lift sales by 10%.

How do brands match audience expectations?

Here are a few of our tips for evolving your brand to match your audience’s wants and needs.

Use human language: Our attention span is 8 seconds. (That’s less than a goldfish.) People switch off if you talk to them with bucket loads of jargon and big fancy words. That’s what marketers used to *think* the people wanted, but actually, people are looking to connect with brands that talk like they do. Everything from website copy to social content – it’s vital to speak in one unified, humanistic way.

Evolve old demographics: By adding behavioural, motivational and value-based dimensions to your marketing segmentation, you’ll get a better understanding of what makes people tick and how to reach them on a more personalized level. What are their values? How do those values influence their purchasing habits? Where in the world are they and how will geographic issues impact them? Knowledge is power here – the more you know about your audience, the better.

Stop talking, start listening: Where interviews and surveys were data gathering’s bread and butter, social media listening is now here to lighten the load. Following what your audience is posting, praising or hating is a goldmine of free insights just for you. Keep ears to the ground on Twitter, Insta and just about anything else for what’s going well and what isn’t. Then start developing your approach from there.

Picking the right tactics: So, you’ve got your audience data. What are you going to do with it now? Where do you put your budget? Choosing your channels to match what your audience wants to see and experience is key. Certain tactics, like video content and brand experience, are naturally more engaging and emotive than static, one-to-many touchpoints. Plus, they give you the chance to be more personalized.

Think about the two Londoners we mentioned earlier – one likes brands that give back, one’s a tech-forward culture vulture. What tactics will resonate most with their individual wants and needs?

Becoming a better-connected brand

Meeting audience expectations is half the battle – the next step is connecting the dots between you, your campaigns and the people that matter. It goes beyond channel picking and personalization. These are our eight principles for building a better-connected brand.

  • Attention: This is the primary driver of human engagement – make sure your brand is grabbing it with everything you do.
  • Reach: Get closer to the right people by guaranteeing your marketing segmentation is working harder than just age, sex, location.
  • Placement: Brand engagement means reaching people on the channels they love – make sure you know where your people are.
  • Relevance: Words can make or break your brand – communicate your campaigns with the right language in mind.
  • Realness: Action + purpose = authenticity. Keep your intentions and goals aligned for maximum engagement.
  • Value: Think about all of your brand's touchpoints. Is your audience getting value out of each element? They should be.
  • Feeling: An emotional response is the most powerful selling tool you have – try triggering one for your audience whenever you can. (In a nice way.)
  • Participation: You have a hyper-connected world to inspire; create share-worthy opportunities for your audience and watch the ripples.

Better-connected brands make a bigger impact

If you’re not providing the same level of TLC your audience has come to expect from just about every other brand in their life, chances are they’ll drop you at the tap of an app. In fact, 50% will walk away after one bad experience. Ouch.

It’s time to break free from outdated ‘customer’ ideals and build stronger, more personalized approaches and strategies. By switching from traditional profiling to something more nuanced, taking into account behavioural data from your audience and understanding their unique wants and needs, you’ll have more chance of making a bigger impact on the people that matter.

There’s no such thing as ‘customers’ anymore, only people. So the question is: how well do you know the people you’re speaking to?


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