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The Misdefined Majority: Divesting from SEG Targeting

In its latest whitepaper, the7stars has joined industry voices including Channel 4 in calling for brands & media agencies to rethink their approach to social grade, and to celebrate all class communities.

Social grade, or SEG, has been widely used as an official classification since the 1950s and its score assumption remains rooted in the past: that the occupation of the head of the household strongly indicates the family’s social status and disposable income. The notion of assigning individuals with a career based social ranking is highly controversial. Working-class author and campaigner Darren McGarvey describes SEG as ‘a class-based analysis and one so brazen, Karl Marx himself would likely have been offended by it’.

Moreover, in recent years, social grade’s efficacy as a measurement tool has diminished as the British workforce undergoes seismic change. As recently as 2015, around 50% of adults were classified as C2DE, but today, that figure is 39% and plummeting. The disconnect between official SEG classifications and how Brits choose to self-identify has formed quantitative research by the 7stars, in partnership with Pure Spectrum. Some 22.9 million adults associate with a working-class background – with more than 6 million not identifying with any class at all.

These groups comprise the Misdefined Majority, a group who have long since felt ignored or trivialised by the media. Through a comprehensive study, exploring the values and motivations of the British public, the 7stars has created a playbook for engaging with them.

Seizing the Opportunity in the Misdefined Majority

At first glance, working-class audiences have lower spending power, with a self-reported £200 average monthly disposable income, compared with £500 for the middle classes. This translates to an above-average proportion of income being spent on essentials.

Yet, to discard the spending power of this group would be to ignore an enormous opportunity. Many working-class people surveyed by the 7stars intended to spend on technology, clothes, entertainment and holidays in the coming months – creating an opportunity for brands willing to foster meaningful connections with them. Fewer than 1 in 10 working-class people believe their typical media portrayal is accurate, outside of soap operas. Media has the power to play a pivotal role in rewriting this narrative but, to do so, brands will need to listen and learn from under-represented communities.

Recommendations for Targeting in a SEG-less World

Although social mobility is commonly assumed the ultimate goal for working-class people, the 7stars’ research found otherwise. When asked to define what makes a person successful, 41% chose their career; yet only 26% said forging a successful career was a personal goal of their own – with building a solid family unit by far the nation’s main aim. In the face of the UK’s economic disparities, working-class communities thrive on shared values of family, honesty, and compassion. For media to truly represent the country, it must recognise and celebrate what makes these communities tick – not rely on stereotypes.

Media planners must overcome the one-size-fits-all approach of SEG-based targeting, using better tools to segment the British population in every way imaginable. In The Misdefined Majority, the 7stars outlines recommendations for a more inclusive approach to planning, through a combination of affordability indicators and value-based attitudes. To download the whitepaper, visit this link.