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What Is a Demographic Profile?

By Osmand Vitez
Updated May 16, 2024
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A demographic profile is a business tool that identifies several characteristics when companies attempt to define a market segment. Common characteristics in the profile include age, sex, income, household size and education. Other more specific items in the demographic profile may seek information on a consumer’s purchasing habits. These questions try to identify how often a consumer purchases a type of product. The data gleaned from the profile allows the business to tailor future marketing or product campaigns to a certain group of individuals.

Companies can gather demographic information several different ways. Large groups of demographic profile information are often available in government reports. Federal agencies, states or cities often create profiles for specific geographic regions or municipalities. While the information provides a good overview, it is often too broad for business use. A common way to gather more specific demographic information is using a survey or other marketing tool to gather consumer data.

Demographic surveys often include a variety of questions that relate to a company’s marketing goal. The surveys are either sent through the mail or are an electronic form a consumer can fill out via the Internet. With ever-advancing technology, electronic surveys are becoming the norm. Companies may send the survey via email or attach a short survey to the electronic shopping cart on the company’s website. The use of these demographic profile tools allow a company to gather data from individuals already associated with their products.

Broadcasting groups are another set of companies that make heavy use of a demographic profile. These businesses look for information on the age and breadth of individuals watching or listening to various programs. The profile data gathered here typically comes from electronic means, with a data profile filled out by individuals allowing their watching or listening habits tracked. A large goal for the demographic profile here is to appeal advertising spots to various businesses. Commercials during popular shows allow a broadcaster to increase income and reach for specific shows.

A demographic profile is by no means an accurate or end-all piece of information from a marketing standpoint. Companies must be sure to ask the right questions first in order to identify the specifics that matter most to the business. Response rate is another issue a company can face with these profiles. A low sample from a large population may not be indicative of the overall group within a region. Making major decisions from limited information can mean trouble if the information gleaned is inaccurate regarding consumer product use.

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Discussion Comments
By lluviaporos — On Mar 10, 2013

@bythewell - That's why demographic data is so important, for any company, but especially companies that are planning to go overseas. There have been numerous examples of companies making massive mistakes in their marketing campaigns and even their product design, when trying to sell something in a new market.

For example, there are lots of examples of companies picking a name for their product that means one thing in their own language, but is naughty in another.

Or there might be a cultural difference that the company might not even consider when it comes to selling a product. You can't just take for granted that any demographic is going to be the same around the world. Even something as simple as thinking all people want to whiten their teeth. There are cultures where blackened teeth are considered attractive.

That's why you need to consult the locals and do product testing as well, to see how your new market takes to the product.

By bythewell — On Mar 10, 2013

@MrsPramm - I've noticed that to some extent with fast food places. There are so many places that have a terrible reputation in the United States, which people overseas think are wonderful. I won't name any names, but it's interesting to me when a fast food place is considered quite low brow in some places, but is almost fine dining in others.

I guess in this case it's partly because of the quality of the food as well, since many places use local ingredients. I also bet they change their marketing tactics depending on what culture they are reaching out to as well.

By MrsPramm — On Mar 09, 2013

What I always find kind of funny is when there is a response from a demographic that the company didn't expect at all.

A really prominent example is the whole Brony thing, where the TV show My Little Pony has become really popular with teenage boys and young men under thirty or so.

The company didn't expect that at all, but it has partly been their reaction (to acknowledge and even encourage this population of fans) that has caused the show to do so well.

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