Why 'Digital-ness' and Demos Don't Mix

Every day, more evidence comes across our desks to support
the idea that equating "digital-ness" with age demos is very risky

The last such salvo came from the least-likely segment to
win the word-association game when it comes to digital: the AARP crowd. Yes, those
in the 50+ demo group happen to find digital increasingly attractive.

Looking through this 'other end of the spectrum' view can
help frame the crumbling foundation of a demographic-based notion of digital
engagement. After all, if those who lived through having to write class notes
longhand in notebooks without a battery are using apps, then we can be sure
that age is on its way out as any measure of digital reality.

As a source of comparison, it's helpful to look at social media
engagement as measured in a July 2012 AARP study.

The study showed that 69% of the 18-49 crowd does uses
social media versus 39% of the 50-plusers. But that 39% demonstrates a slow and
steady climb in an area that is often dismissed or missed altogether by
marketers as they obsessively focus on millennials -- namely, engagement. Consider
that in these groups, one-quarter of each post on social media 'at least on a daily basis.' That
means on quarter of both groups engage with social media once or more per day.

In order to maximize one's brand through digital, it pays to
file away those demographic charts. To truly understand digital from the brand
perspective, it's vital to measure where digital engagement and brand
engagement intersect -- how engagement with digital platforms links to how users
engage with categories and the brands in them.

As we look at the patterns among consumers with high-digital
usage -- the "Higitals," or those that span demographic segments of all kinds
-- we see higher expectations when it comes to things like brand transparency
and follow-through. No one knows better than Higitals how to pull back the
curtain on the Wizard. Repeatedly, we see that increased use of digital
communication platforms makes it abundantly clear to Higitals where the power
lies in separating image from reality.

Social media only matters when it offers a category-relevant
aspect for consumers, both Higital and not. This makes understanding digital a
very specific undertaking, which is why usage numbers alone only take you so

Our belief is that this trend is only going to continue.
Engagement is not a buzzword; it's reality. And while engagement with any
platform, message, experience or program is critical, it's only an entry to
that spot where the pot o' gold that is brand engagement lies. All maps are
useless unless they lead to that sometimes-too-buried treasure.

Or, to quote Captain Jack Sparrow, "you savvy?"

Passikoff is founder & president of Brand Keys, Inc. a global brand
and engagement consultancy. He can be reached at
robertp@brandkeys.com. Shea
is executive VP and director of global brand development. She can be reached at