I was recently at a restaurant centric conference.  Any time you are at a conference, your ears are up for anything said that makes you challenge your current position.  Something to propel you forward as a brand or agency.  More commonly, you hear something that makes you scratch your head.  Hard.

I heard something this time through that made me scratch my head so hard it would have been bleeding if I were actually scratching it:

A panelist said the following two things:

“Demographics are essentially dead.”

”In marketing to your loyal customers, if you send the same message/content 2 times to the same person and they don’t respond, they will never respond to that message.”

As blood ran down my face from the proverbial head scratching, I gathered myself, and tried to untangle the mess I just heard.  How could we possibly have landed in this place in terms of data?  There are just so many things I challenge in these two statements.

The two statements are very different from each other but also so closely related as you read between the lines that they can combined into one statement as follows:

”Don’t use demographics.  Use a short history of behavior instead.”

Why use one and totally ignore the other?  From my seat, you MUST utilize both demographics and behavior. And not just response behavior but actual purchase behavior as well. Demographics allow you to at least know something about your loyalty member or guest.  Behavior allows you to know what they respond to and what they purchase.  One without the other is definitely a recipe for marketing failure.  You must use both where you can when building a successful loyalty marketing program.

Let me put you in a scenario with me as your consumer:

I come to your restaurant every other week.  I don’t respond to your content related messages, but I come in to purchase a burger and fries for one person consistently.  I have never bought any other items.  I only open emails about deals.

If you rely only on behavior, you would send me content with burger and fries only, expect me to come in 2x per month, and expect me to come by myself.  Your goal should be getting me to visit one more time in a given month (or at least maintain my 2x per month cycle).  Based solely on behavioral data, you would do so by offering me a burger or fries deal for one (or at least promoting that sort of meal).

What you don’t know by ignoring demographics holds the key to getting my third visit each month.  I come to your restaurant and buy a burger and fries for one.  By focusing only on behavior, little do you know, I am 35, married, and have 2 kids under 6.  I am taking my family elsewhere for dining.  And, because you focus solely on behavior, you are missing out on the rest of my picture as a consumer.  My third visit should come from promotion of your kids menu.

Nothing in my behavior would tell you that.  If you acquire demographic information on your consumer, you would have known another thing you could market to me. Your kids menu may be intriguing to me.  I’m going somewhere to eat with them. Why am I not choosing your restaurant?

The right thing would be to add demographics and adapt your strategy based on behavior AND demos. You then get a full picture of me as a consumer and have more ways to be relevant to me.

The more you learn about your customers, the better chance you have retain them as loyal customers.  You increase the occasions you can promote to them.

And, briefly on the messaging front, as consumers, we receive SO MANY emails from so many brands.  We are inundated with content.  When your message is one of 50 I receive one morning in my inbox, the likelihood I pay attention is really low.  The second time, same thing.  To say that you should stop with that message and move to another topic after 2 tries is insane.  I may not even notice the brand after 2x let alone the actual content/message.

Stay tuned for more on why you must think more like your consumer and not so much like a marketer that stared at the content for a week before it was deployed.