The End of Average

Harvard professor Todd Rose recently published “The End of Average” in which he argues that the world of education and business are set up to work for an average person, who simply does not exist. Rose believes that there are principles of individuality that means that a one size fits all approach does not work in the 21st century, if it ever did at all.

In marketing we can see this very clearly as we have moved from mass marketing to all, to direct marketing to segments, to target marketing to personas and now to one to one marketing to the individual. The idea that we can no longer use averages has profound effects on marketing and business in general. At mCordis we are often amazed by the number of marketers we hear describing their target audience as being Millennials as if somehow a married 35-year-old female university graduate with children, is similar in any way to a single 24 year old unemployed man. The lives are totally different, as are their media habits, product and service choices and consumption.

We use averages because it makes life easier. But the digital age offers the possibility to deal with individuals rather than groups that share some similarities. Think of the effect on something like insurance for instance. This has long been sold on the basis of using actuarial data; that calculates average risks and compares people against this data. But why use averages when you can have the actual data? Why calculate the risk of what an average person will do when an individual can share with you their actual genetic profile or their actual lifestyle choices of nutrition and activity?

The end of average is long overdue. We live in the world of the individual. A connected individual.

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