Ask Me Anything: Demographic Segmentation

April 03, 2018

“I’ve enjoyed your advice on segmentation, but I notice that you don’t speak much about demographic segmentation, is that not something we should be concerned about?”


You’re correct! JCA Arts Marketing firmly believes that behavioral segmentation, how a person behaves (when they buy, what they see, how much they pay, etc.), is the most reliable way to determine the way a person is most likely to interact with your organization.

That is not to say that demographic or attitudinal (their self-selected preferences) segmentations aren’t valuable, but making assumptions off of them can miss the mark and, at worst, be racist, ageist, or classist. It’s true that knowing which of your patrons belong to specific ethnicities, generations, or income brackets are crucial to meeting a variety of goals. You need to ensure your organization is reaching a diverse audience and is accessible to the varying needs of a multitude of demographics. You also want to be able to track the changes in your audience over time to show that you’re moving toward meeting those goals.

However, segmenting your audience based on this information can quickly become problematic. For example, let’s say you have a performance coming up for that you expect will appeal to a specific ethnic community. You’ll certainly want to reach out to them but what happens when the production is done—do you just “ignore” them until your next culturally relevant piece? Or let’s say you want to ensure an upcoming concert is packed with Millennials so you send a deep discount code. Have you then trained these patrons to expect that discount as they age out?

Behavioral segmentation allows you to examine how patrons are behaving without any bias. You can determine who likes certain types of art without assuming anything about their heritage or who is paying full price without assuming anything about their age or socio-economic status. Those behavioral segments are just as diverse as the ideal audiences you are trying to reach. So yes, demographics are important to understand, but ultimately can obstructive a well-defined segmentation strategy.


JCA Arts Marketing collaborates with cultural organizations to increase revenue, boost attendance and membership, and grow patron loyalty. We provide consulting and software services to hundreds of cultural institutions across multiple genres, including dance, museums, opera, performing arts centers, symphony, and theatre. We can help you achieve your marketing goals.