FEATURE18 January 2016

Geodemographics: the birth of big data

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Peter Mouncey takes us through the developments in geodemographics and the influence they had on marketing and market research in the latest in our 70 years of market research articles.

I have attended most MRS conferences since the late 1970s, but a presentation that still sticks in my mind is the one given by Ken Baker, John Bermingham and Colin McDonald in 1979, introducing the first commercial application of geodemographics*. 

The British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) team had been inspired by a lecture given by Richard Webber at the Centre for Environmental Studies in 1977, describing his pioneering development of a classification of residential neighbourhoods (CRN). This was shortly after BMRB had completely redesigned its main sampling frame using data from the 1971 census – what it believed to be the first nationwide computer-automated sampling frame in the UK market research sector. 

This was important because it made it relatively straightforward to add the CRN 36 cluster solution to the sampling frame, and the 1978 TGI dataset was also back-coded with the clusters. It had cost BMRB the princely sum of £160 to obtain a classification! 

Webber moved to CACI, and Acorn – the first ...