Even with the best products and services, any business without effective marketing can find itself dead in the water. And marketing is only as good as its application and its relevance in the eyes of the consumer it targets.

To engineer the perfect marketing strategy, you must first fully understand your customer base.

Demographic data is critical to identifying your average customer and using that data to strategically focus your efforts. You don't have to exclude markets that don't embody your ideal customer base, but you can use every marketing dollar at your disposal to target your most enthusiastic consumer—the customer most likely to convert from a window shopper to a purchaser.

Examples of Demographics

Although demographics are often used to identify business opportunities and build business plans, this information is also gathered, analyzed, and applied at any given time throughout the lifecycle of a product or organization.

Demographic data can include age, income, gender, marital status, household members, religion, nationality, education, and location, to name a few types of data.

Let's take a look at some examples of demographics and how they may affect the purchasing habits of your consumers.


Consumer age is a highly valuable statistic and often used to gauge a consumer's interests during a specific stage of their life.

This type of demographic data is often segmented into categories for easier management, such as children, teenagers, adults, and seniors. This information can be helpful in understanding what type of consumers will be most interested in your product. For example, children are tactile, teenagers are more likely to enjoy current trends, adults may seek out practical products and services, and so on.


Income can help you target an audience because it is so closely tied to the purchasing power of your consumers.

Although each customer earns and saves to a different degree, there are often trends in what type of products and services are most commonly procured by each income bracket. For example, lower income brackets may look for more economic purchases whereas high-end consumers may be more likely to purchase non-essentials.

Household Members

The number of individuals in any given household will often dictate the types of purchases they make. Larger families and those within the lifecycle where all family members are still under one roof are more likely to make economy-sized purchases; smaller households may opt for single serving-sized products.

Solid demographics are a great way to get a handle on your market, but there are other variables that weigh in on your customers' purchasing decisions as well. Consumers' personality, motivations, and lifestyle can all affect their purchasing habits. These variables can be key indicators that can help you market to the most applicable audience for your products and services.

Identifying Your Target Market

Once you have the demographics identified by which to measure your consumer base, it's time to nail down your particular target market.

Identifying your target market is all about constructing an accurate picture of your ideal consumer and then tailoring your marketing accordingly. There may be—and often are—multiple segments of the market that can be profitably pursued, but knowing exactly which ones to go after can be the difference between shooting fish in a barrel and trawling a barren ocean.

With your new clarity around which consumers are most likely to connect with your business, you can move on to applying your marketing towards that particular subset of the population. This means that you can construct better, more personalized marketing messages, apply funds more appropriately towards the most effective campaigns, and focus on gathering data to hone in on those perfect opportunities. Time, location, packaging, pricing, and marketing messages are all facets of a tailored message that are adjusted to help you create an ideal buying opportunity.

Applying Your Data

Even with the correct market assessment, not every advertisement or marketing tactic will work on every consumer. Within demographic subsets of consumers there are a wide range of characteristics covered throughout the group. But that doesn't mean that demographics data and market targeting is too nebulous to analyze. This broad view can still lead you towards the platforms that will serve your marketing efforts best. Demographics can tell you whether your price is too high for your target, your print marketing is falling flat, your message is not connecting with your consumers, or whether social media is the place to funnel your energy.

Once you have your target market identified, look to see whether your current efforts are serving it well. There may be many reasons that your business is not hitting the mark. Some of these may include:

  • Your target market is too small to support your business
  • Your prices are too high/low
  • Your marketing is either overwhelming your target market or never reaching them
  • Your target market has no present need for your products or services
  • Your target market is currently overrun by a competitor
  • Your branding and messaging is not connecting with your consumers

Identifying the needs and preferences of each prospective customer can seem like an insurmountable challenge. But using demographics to identify a broader target market is the next best thing to knocking on every door and asking how exactly each individual chooses to make their purchases, and what might entice them to select your product. Once you have identified your target market, you can adjust your marketing efforts to successfully and economically cater to your ideal consumer.

Marketing can be costly, and the difference between a poor return on investment and a great one can significantly impact the health of your business. With a good marketing strategy and a decent understanding of demographics and how they can be used to properly identify your target audience, you can streamline your application of marketing campaigns and materials and achieve better results with a more targeted effort.

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image of Becky Wu

Becky Wu, Ph.D, is senior executive vice-president of Luth Research, a privately held market research company founded in 1977 and located in San Diego, California.

LinkedIn: Becky Wu