LONDON: Brands' marketers devote considerable resources into trying to understand the preferences of millennials, but they would achieve better results if they based their research on behaviour and attitudes regardless of age, gender or income.

That is because consumers are too complex and nuanced to be fully understood by narrow, traditional demographics, argued Virginia Monk, Managing Director of Network Research, in the current issue of Admap.

She said traditional demographics still have their place in market research, but that conducting research into attitudinal segments improves understanding and can open up new markets for brands.

She supported her claim with findings from a study Network Research conducted into the way consumers make decisions, based on the rational and emotional components of brand relationships.

The study involved 1,500 consumers, who were asked about 60 of the UK's best-known brands across 12 categories, which in turn fed into interviews with 1,000 consumers about a selection of the 20 biggest brands.

"Our study showed that the consumer is far more complicated and subtle than traditional demographics give them credit for and that by using traditional demographics, brands only see half the story," Monk said.

For example, the research debunked the perception that consumers on lower incomes are less concerned about the environment, which means that brands risk missing out on a potentially huge market if they target just the middle classes.

Similarly, brands often regard consumers on high incomes as opinion leaders, but the research revealed that these consumers are more likely than average to seek advice before making purchases.

The study went on to examine particular consumer groups, such as "Mobile-first" consumers as well as a group dubbed "Capricious Snobs", so described because they are fashion-focused, image conscious and early adopters.

Importantly, the research established that these two groups of switched on consumers are not limited to those aged 18 to 24 and that age is no longer a barrier for early adopters.

Elsewhere, the research confirmed that segmenting audiences by interest, rather than the usual A/B approach, provided a better predictor of future use for fashion and sporting brands.

"Our findings demonstrated, unequivocally, that attitudinal segmentation is highly effective at predicting consumer-brand relationships and behaviours," said Monk.

"In fact, as a predictor of behaviour, it is proven to be three times more accurate than a segmentation using traditional demographics."

She concluded: "There is no one-size-fits all solution. But next time someone frames your target audience with an age range and income band, ask for more."

Data sourced from Admap