Socio-demographic… What?

When you work with industry specific terminology on a daily basis, it’s easy to forget that people outside of your immediate work circle may not be familiar with your industry ‘jargon’. In an attempt to break some of the barriers between marketing companies and advertisers I thought I would look at socio-economic groups.

First of all what is a socio-demographic group? Well it’s what companies use to group consumers into a ‘social class’. Socio-demographics are used in marketing to target a product/service to an individual via the media they consume. There are a few providers that supply socio demographic data, some of the most common ones include:

Mosaic which is provided by Experian, their definitions can be used at individual, household or postcode level.

ACORN is a geo-demographic segmentation of the UK’s population which segments small neighbourhoods, postcodes or consumer households into 5 categories, 17 groups and 56 types.

Both Mosaic and ACORN look at group geographical areas based on their demographic profile. The Personicx data differs and looks at the lifestyle and purchasing behaviours of the people that live there. There is also Call Credit’s Cameo and P2 People and Places.

The data we use is called the National Readership Survey (NRS), this data reports on the highest income earner in the household. Let’s look at the NRS data in further detail.

There are six social class grades (they are referred to as the letter/number in italic)

  1. A = Upper middle class
  2. B = Middle class
  3. C1 = Lower middle class
  4. C2 = Skilled working class
  5. D = Working class
  6. E = Those at the lowest level of subsistence

Now just to shake things up a bit, you can also combine the social grades together.

Here are a few examples:

  1. ABC1
  2. C1C2
  3. C2DE

On a daily basis I receive requests from both my colleagues and clients for data broken down by socio-demographics. What has become clear over the last year or so is that many people are confused as to what the socio-demographics actually mean, so I want to clarify a few points.

Yes it is correct that A’s and B’s are more affluent, every now and then I receive a request for the number of AB listeners that tune into Real Radio. Now on these occasions I often find myself wondering why these clients are targeting AB consumers, and the reason, only 4% of the population fall into the upper class category! Professions that are considered A’s are Judges and CEO’s of banks; essentially they are asking if Lord Alan Sugar or Bob Diamond listen to Real Radio! I know I am using extreme examples, but I’m making a point.

The majority of consumers fit into the C1C2 category, but these jobs vary substantially, I suspect this puts marketers off saying this is who they are targeting. People classed as C1 would be those in managerial, supervisory and professional roles. If you fall into the C2 group you are likely to be a qualified mechanic plumber or electrician. Yet a lot of people I speak too seem to think these particular categories are lower down the spectrum then they actually are.

Consumers that fall into the D’s are likely to be unskilled labourers and factory workers. E’s are those that live off state pensions or benefits as well as seasonal workers with no fixed contracts. (Sorry Santa you’re probably an E)

I have already touched on the fact that socio-demographics are derived from the main income earners job. Let’s take a 23 year old graduate that works in a bar and lives with their parents; they would be classed as a D. But if their father was a solicitor which is classed as a B, then the student would also be classed as a B. It doesn’t really make sense does it?

There are also other factors to consider, such as taxi drivers. Pretty much anyone can drive a car (providing they have a) a licence and b) a car) so this job is classed as a D. The exceptions are taxi drivers in London, who are classed as C2’s because of the exams they need to pass.

One final point I want to touch on is the theory that an A or B will go to a D as soon as they retire. This isn’t always the case; if they retire and receive a private pension they will remain there or potentially drop down into the next category. They would only be classed as a D if there only income was a state pension.

So unless you work at Harrods (or any other high end retailer) please don’t ask me what proportion of our listeners are A’s!

As always please leave a comment below or contact me on or @realradiojodi

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