Bunhill: So are you a pebble dash subtopian?

So you've got a flower bed, you've done a bit of home improvement and now you keep getting mailshots advertising garden seeds and DIY products. Or some time in the past you bought a Carpenters record and a Fleetwood Mac CD and now you're being targeted for angora cardigans, pipe tobacco, shaving kits and rocking chairs. Are you just being paranoid or have you become predictable?

No, you're not paranoid, you are predictable and the marketing men know you inside out. More alarming still, for those who constantly have to refute charges that people can be stereotyped according to their post code (Islington man, Essex girl), there really are a lot of people round your way who think the same way you do. For instance, I live in the north London "village" of Crouch End - an area where everyone is perceived as priding themselves on their youthful idealism but mature tastes. I like to think I'm different but, in the words of the song that I fear features in many record collections round my way, there is always something there to remind me ... otherwise.

I say all this by way of introducing the information services company Experian and its MOSAIC classification system. MOSAIC is a database whose details are gleaned from electoral registers, financial and retail data (ie our buying habits) and housing data and then crunched by computer to reveal the dominant characteristics of people in any given post code. Areas that have a lot in common with each other are pinpointed by mapping software so that companies using the database have a better idea of where they should target their marketing efforts.

More intriguing still are the classifications used by Experian to describe people with common attributes. For instance, if you live in an area with a rich ethnic mix, you are part of the "bohemian melting pot". You're well-off but not materialistic, you vote Labour and read the Guardian, and your direct mail will be dominated by promotions for records, lifestyle magazines and holidays.

Sounds a lot more exciting than being a member of "pebble dash subtopia" - in which case you're not very flamboyant, you're not keen to know your neighbours, but you do like DIY and going to the supermarket. Your fate: mailshots crammed with offers for home-improvement and garden products.

There are 50 other classifications in MOSAIC - "bijou homemakers", "graffitied ghettos", "suburban mock tudor" and "problem families" to name but a few - so surely such comprehensive coverage could be exploited by the spin doctors; how much easier it would be to deliver voter-friendly messages if they were aware of people's preoccupations in any given neighbourhood. Futuristic? Not at all, reports Richard Webber, a director at Experian. Politicians are already using this kind of information to make the right pitches to the right people.

So watch out in the bohemian melting pot when Peter Mandelson knocks on your door: "Yes, rest assured that we in New Labour are firmly committed to the preservation of joss-sticks." Or, if you live in pebble dash subtopia: "We are actively considering removing VAT from wood-filler, car wax and bathroom sealant."

Look away now ...

A time-honoured ritual was re-enacted at Bunhill Mansions last week when Trevor McDonald informed us that the highlights of the England-Moldova match would be shown after News at Ten ... "So if you don't want to know the score, please look away now." Cue face down in the cushion and the tortuous wait for the message that would return me to the living world: "And finally ..."

Some readers may even recall a time when the fact of impending highlights didn't stop the newscaster announcing the result anyway. This gave viewers precisely two seconds to fall back over the sofa, somersault out of the door, and bury their heads in the hall carpet with their hands over their ears. A painful process, perhaps, but one that did at least imbue the most excruciating 0-0 draws with a sense of anticipation.

So could similar tactics be deployed to broaden the appeal of business? I don't see why not:

"The highlights of today's plenary committee meeting on the future direction of EMU will be shown immediately after this bulletin, so if you don't want to know the possible ramifications for a basket of currencies now, please turn over to the film with lots of sex and violence."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sale...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer (Trainee) - City, London

£25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A large financial services company...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Assistant - Financial Services Sector - London

£20400 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and highly reputable organisat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future