Demographic – an extinct notion in marketing?

Dalibor Šumiga Behavioral marketing/Neuromarketing, Marketing

Digital persona…Archetypes…
Two very popular terms when it comes to planning marketing strategies. But, what happened with demographic? Some say that data has become superfluous; it doesn’t matter where you live. What does matter is your behavioral patterns, what matters is “small data”, your habits that can very often be tracked through online behavior.


While residing in various parts of China during his career, Dr. Thomas Talhelm kept noticing that people in the South of China  had a strong tendency of avoiding conflict situations. Even the most mundane ones, such as getting out of their way to get out of yours in the supermarket.

On the other hand, after moving to the North of China, he noticed a completely different situation – people were much more direct, independent and not too concerned with maintaining a so called “social harmony”.

While he was studying the possible differences which could lead to such opposite behavioral patterns, he focused on a very interesting difference – rice production.
Southern parts of China produce more rice than its northern parts.

Why is this piece of information important? Rice production demands more work therefore more interpersonal cooperation due to irrigation networks that are needed for quality rice-growing which automatically makes people more tolerant.

But Thomas didn’t stop on that analysis, he decided to conduct an experiment in a natural environment…


While analysing 2 types of behavior, collectivism and individualism, Thomas decided to prove the following:

In an individualistic culture, when you face a problem in your environment – you will change the environment.

In a collectivistic culture however, when you face a problem in your environment – you will try to change yourself.

For the purpose of this experiment, Thomas placed two empty chairs in Starbucks (pictured below) and decided to track how many people would move the chair, and how many would adjust themselves so they could fit through.

It’s important to emphasize that no one was sitting on the 2 chairs which means that there was no obstacle which prevented you from simply pushing one of the chairs, enabling you to simply pass through.

On a sample of 678 subjects, Thomas procured interesting data:

  • In the Southern parts of China 2-5 % of people moved the chair
  • In the Northern parts of China around 50 percent of people moved the chair


Most of you are surely asking yourself the question from the headline above – what do rice and chairs have to do with marketing?

As a matter of fact, they do…

At last years NMWF in Singapore the information which piqued my interest was regarding the influence of individualism and collectivism on Nike’s creative approach for ads intended for the Japanese and UK market. And while in the ads created for the Japanese market you will see the “Just do it” story told through a group of friends who are running, in its UK counterpart you will see the story told through one person. Collectivism vs individualism


But let’s bring the story down to a micro level and our environment – Croatia…
Last year Promosapiens conducted an experiment on a sample of 26.000 people on Facebook analysing what’s the best extrinsic motivation when it comes to prize contests. In a standard Facebook content campaign we are running for our client from retail, we analysed 2 different prize contests with a very simple and in my view already cliched mechanic – the fans send their photos or creative works through the inbox or the comments.

The aim was to find out what motivated them to participate in the contest, using the same mechanic that Facebook users have already seen a hundred times with all brands. The difference between the contests was in the size of the prize and in a minimal change of the mechanic.

01) back to school contest – send a drawing of your child on the subject of  why we need *brand name* and you will win a month’s worth of school lunch packs for your child

02) pets’ week – send a picture of your pet with our logo and you will win 2 cans of pet food

Even though the back to school contest had a drastically bigger prize, the pets contest had 11 times more applicants.

One of the possible conclusions would surely be that “users don’t like to expose their children on social media in any way” which led to a smaller turnout, however… In the pets contest we received pictures where children were holding their pets. So, the reason for the smaller turnout for the first contest was not privacy protection.

Analysing this behavioral pattern we’ve come to the demographic. Our client is the chain store “Sloga” that does business in the area of Podravina, a region known for its gastronomic offer and culinary tradition which is also the center of our biggest food brand – Podravka.

The hypothesis that we want to analyse in the following period is that in areas where home made cooking is a tradition, parents don’t feel that others preparing their child’s meal is a prize.

Maybe demographic isn’t the sexy data point it used to be, but I hope that by showing you these examples, I demonstrated it is something that cannot be ignored.