Demographics No Longer Effective For Financial Direct Marketing

by. Jim Marous

Bank and credit union marketers have traditionally relied on the use of demographic segmentation as a means of targeting customers for product and service communication.

Recent studies, however, provide growing evidence that changes in product delivery, communication channels and competition may have made a demographic-based targeting approach much less effective compared to other approaches that use additional data sources.

Marketing segmentation is one of the most widely used marketing tools and has long played a crucial role in identifying and treating differences among customers. For decades, bank and credit union marketers have used demographic segmentation for product development, product positioning, marketing communication and results measurement. Traditionally, this segmentation has been done based on characteristics such as age, income, gender, family life stage, occupation, education, race, etc.

The reason for using demographic segmentation is that it is relatively easy to use for most financial institutions due to relatively accessible customer databases and because this form of segmentation is continuously referenced by both academic and trade literature. While it is still true that there are differences in the use of financial services across demographic segments, however, research as far back as the 1960s has suggested that demographic variables are only remote proxies for differences in buying styles, decision processes or sensitivity to promotional influences (A Two Dimensional Concept of Brand Loyalty).

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