“Birds of a feather flock together – or don’t they?”

As consumer data analysts for over 3 decades we are watching with interest the entry into consumer analytics by the healthcare vertical. Healthcare executives and business intelligence experts are starting to add consumer profile information to their patient registries and internal data warehouses. The fastest way to do that is to use Census or other socio-economic variables based on geographic locations – e.g., counties or zip codes. What we have observed is healthcare defining “consumer data” as simple geo-location or demographic additions to their existing patient database. The problem is, that’s a very out-dated process.

Before going too far down the ‘quick & easy’ path, it’s good to look at how consumer marketers evolved in their use of consumer data.

In the 1970’s consumer marketing relied on zip code level data – assuming that all 10,000 to 20,000 + households were alike (‘birds of a feather’). The 1980’s brought in block group level profiles (about 350 to 400 households on average) – more precise than zips but still fraught with inaccuracies. Marketers moved to household level profiles in the 1990’s.

Over the last 10 years behavioral data has driven consumer engagement strategies as analysts now know behavioral data always trumps socio-economic alone. Bankers, merchants and travel firms all know that you cannot judge consumers simply by how old they are, how much they make or where they went to school.

A lot has been learned over the past 30 years. Today’s consumer marketers relentlessly look for new ways to better understand consumer behavior. We know that that precision drives greater accuracy and performance. It’s worth remembering…