Finding Your Grandma on TikTok

Vanessa Martinez


If you were born after the early 90s, what was once the standard in getting to know someone may seem like abbreviated nonsense. Before social media platforms took hold of most of our lives, AOL reigned supreme as the development of the World Wide Web drove the ubiquity of home computers and a meteoric fascination with online communications. Whether via email, instant messaging, or chat rooms, initiating conversation with another typically started this way. “A/S/L” (age/sex/location) was a new-fashioned colloquialism that offered fast facts on someone.

When considering your Audience Growth Strategy, it's important to note that the evolution of modern technology mirrors the progressive transformation of humanity.  We are living in a time when most people are expanding the ways in which they define themselves, while the ad industry has created high-tech mechanics to help marketers find them. Real-time emergence of in-depth data availability plus the collective desire for self-introspection is changing everything about finding your audience.

Old school ways are no match for the new Roaring ‘20s.

How one defines themself today diminishes old-fashioned basics. Becoming a truly customer-centric brand requires letting go of methods created for a different era, and adopting contemporary methodology: relevant data that can empower any brand regardless of category, product, or media budget.

The personal interests of consumers are limitless. Modern marketing requires that we look at what defines a person outside of their demographic stats. Cultural upbringing, passion points, hobbies, politics, entertainment, unscripted belief systems, and environmental influences drive people to their anointed categorical definitions. Younger generations drive communal narratives and consequently endorse societal norms that eliminate ageism, sexism, or any importance on where you come from. But too often we see that when a target audience is established based on primitive data points of age, gender, geography, the brand’s ability to understand their consumers is diluted.

Modern marketing requires that we look at what defines a person outside of their demographic stats.

As modern marketers, we can develop brand trust and leads to drive innovation organically by befriending our targets who embody diversification. There is no longer a need to fixate solely on media consumption trends. By finding an audience in their established comfort zones, brands can discover the latest and greatest platforms. This relationship often overhauls a flimsy media mix and requires campaigns to remain fluid for improved optimization.

The sole purpose of a media campaign is to distribute strategic messaging that creates relevance for a brand and informs consumers at the right time, in the right place. This creates the ultimate synchronization between mass awareness and hyper targeted tactics. Platforms and technology coexist to reach whatever segmentation is sought after. The risk of a weak target established at the onset, risks the reckless spend of an advertising budget that will likely yield little profit.

This is the era of annihilating assumptions.

The victory for modern marketers lies in their ability to connect on a human level. They no longer have to settle for pulling levers exclusively on age or gender, nor form assumptions based on two generalized factors. By connecting brands to interests, advertisers have the ability to broaden exposure to more audience subsets than ever before. Groups of like-minded people encompass all backgrounds and life stages. There are 70-year-olds that loved Game of Thrones, and college kids that crochet.

Back in the day, a beauty brand would simply try to reach women by assuming they fit an ideal target, and marry consumption data to typically find them watching a Lifetime movie, after they have locked their suburban doors and put their 2.5 kids to bed. Today beauty product sales are soaring, due in part by audience expansion that includes the outward affinity that comes from men and those that define themselves as non-gender specific. While women still constitute a majority of sales, you may need to look for them on a true crime or leadership podcast because the very definition of female-centric entertainment is itself far from what was characterized by old school tropes. Digital Media Strategies for the modern world are also a far cry from old school tropes.

Genuine outreach always wins.

Marketers are slowly coming to terms with the obligation to relinquish some control to their audience. Consumers no longer want to be told what they need and are more likely to engage with a brand that meets them where they meet their own needs. This establishes credibility, trust, and promotes authenticity.

While it is easy to illustrate why this is necessary, the how is rather complex.

For advertisers, this is a blank canvas that must support trial and error. There is a requirement to establish multiple audience personas that potentially align with a brand, and curate personalized messages to make audiences feel validated. From there, the universal approach of monitoring metrics informs which audience group achieves KPIs and goals. In time, personas are adjusted and refined to expose a brand’s true target audience.

Ad nerds rejoice: What seem like daunting cultural shifts are strengthening the tether between the real world and the digital world. Your grandmother is on TikTok, and that is great news, as knowing and broadening your audience is a strategic lever for  growing revenue.

About the Author

Vanessa Martinez

Vanessa is a multi-industry media strategist specializing in effectively building omnichannel campaigns. Focused on consumer behavior and emerging trends, she develops fully immersive brand experiences rooted in human connections.