Most of us have a time sink somewhere on the internet.
You load up the website in question to check one little fact then something else catches your eye. Before you know, you have 74 tabs open in your browser, it’s next February, and your family has moved out.
After this week I wouldn’t be surprised if, for a good number of people, that time sink becomes YouGov Profiles, a brilliant and dangerously addictive website that promises to describe the average fan or consumer of “any brand, person or thing”. There are limitations on this: I was disappointed to discover that, according to YouGov, I am neither a brand, person nor thing – and neither, sadly, is The Grocer. Try anything that might be thought of as a household name, though, and you’ll be in luck.
The tool works by searching 190,000 of the panellists YouGov uses to carry out its polling. It finds every individual that has listed your search term as an interest or a business they use, and then analyses the other information held on those people to create a profile of the ‘typical’ fan, user or customer.
So, for example, 40,224 people said they were interested in music, and the quintessential music fan is a 25 to 39-year-old female in the C2DE group, slightly left of centre politically, living in London, working in entertainment, and with less than £125 spare income a month. Meanwhile, there are 907 fans of Bill Murray and they are typically a 25 to 39-year-old male from central Scotland, working in media and publishing, and quite far left.
Beyond the basic demographic information, the tool also gives details under six other tabs: lifestyle, personality, brands, entertainment, online and media.
This is where it becomes not only fascinating, but potentially gold dust for retailers scratching their heads at how to turn around falling sales.
Tesco may not be surprised to learn that its average customer is a 40 to 59-year-old ABC1 woman from northern Scotland, working in business and bang in the middle of the political spectrum, but did it know she considers herself “geeky”, “analytical” and “kooky”? That she plays video games, and is most likely to have a fish as a pet? That her favourite TV show is Junior Doctors: Life in their Hands; she banks at Santander; drives a Vauxhall; and follows Boris Johnson and Ellen DeGeneres on Twitter? Also, she’s a customer of Marks & Spencer, Costa, Greggs and Lidl? (I suspect Dave Lewis may have had a hunch about that last one).
You’re probably thinking, rightly, that I’m giving too much attention to Tesco here. So let it also be known that Sainsbury’s shoppers adore Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Asda customers follow William Shatner on Twitter, and the favourite band of Morrisons devotees – typically male and 60+, incidentally – is Queens of the Stone Age.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that these esoteric factlets could make a lot of money for the retailers in question. I’m just thankful it isn’t my job to figure out how.