How to leverage Census data to deepen insights for marketing and communications

When people think of the U.S. Census Bureau, they often just think of the U.S. Census survey—a once-a-decade expansive population and housing count required by the U.S. Constitution. But the U.S. Census Bureau is actually responsible for much more than the Decennial Census. They are the “provider of quality data about the people and economy” of the United States. They regularly engage governments, businesses, communities, and individuals to collect treasure troves of data that are all available publicly. These datasets are available in a variety of forms, including narratives, downloadable tables, and data visualizations. And, in many cases, the data can be segmented and drilled down by demographic characteristics or geographies. 

Where to get started with Census data

It can feel overwhelming when first digging in on all of the data, so start with just three of the data tools to get a look at the potential. Some example data sets we've gathered: 

American Community Survey Narrative Profiles: Although the 2020 data is delayed until the first quarter of 2022, this tool still provides unparalleled public data. It captures not just basic demographic information but also includes data such as educational attainment levels, language spoken in the home, employment industries, types of households, income levels, how individuals are commuting to work, home computer and internet use, and housing inventory characteristics. Rather than dig through statistical spreadsheets to attempt to pull the data together, this data  provides the ability to generate narrative profiles that can pull the data by state, county, county subdivision, place, census tract, zip code, tribal area, and metropolitan/micropolitan areas. A few examples of these narrative profiles are below: 

U.S. Census Bureau Interactive Gallery: While the links above provide primarily raw data, the Interactive Gallery goes one step further to provide off the shelf data analysis on a wide variety of topics; in some cases, they’re more timely snapshots of how current events are impacting economies, industries, and families. The Interactive Gallery has both static infographics and some data visualizations that the public can drill down deeper on. A few examples of available data within the Interactive Gallery from 2021 include: 

Quick Facts: If you are interested in seeing data pulled by specific facts rather than by geography, check out the Quick Facts tool. Although not as user-friendly as the tools listed above, it is still relatively easy to slice and dice data related to education attainment levels, housing characteristics, economic and labor force information, and income. 

You have the what?

Below are three recommendations for you:


You already know the basic demographics of your target audience, but by digging deeper, you’ll get richer information. Does your audience in a specific area have access to reliable internet? What industries does your audience primarily work in? Does a particular target market have a high use of public transportation? Every insight you can refine can lead to more innovative and impactful ways to reach your audiences. 


Once you have refined your audience, review your current communication and marketing efforts: When you look at the community profile data for the areas you are currently targeting, do your creative assets accurately represent the population? Are you spending resources on tactics that look good on paper but do not actually make sense for the communities you are communicating to? Reviewing your current tactics and creative executions with a better understanding of your audience and regions will make your efforts more relevant, efficient and effective. 


There are most likely audiences or regions that you are currently not serving through your communications and marketing efforts. So leverage the data to identify where you may have opportunities to grow and expand. Where can you find untapped regions that have concentrated pockets of your target audience? Are there additional characteristics of the people you serve that lead you to believe they may benefit from additional services and products you provide? 

Here’s a (small) disclaimer

Although having more data and insights at your fingertips is helpful, it is important to remember that data does not reflect nuanced or lived experiences. Just as it is harmful to jump to conclusions without data, it can be just as harmful to jump to conclusions about data. 

Biases can make inaccurate correlations between data points and the experiences, perceptions, and decision drivers of an audience. Whenever possible, KW2 always recommends qualitative research to accompany quantitative data to provide a more accurate 360-degree understanding of a target audience and limit the risk of unconscious bias creeping in. Focus groups, key informant interviews, and perception polling are just a few ways to deepen and validate data. 

For more information on how KW2 can assist you in using data to gain a 360-degree understanding of your audiences, contact KW2 CEO Jennifer Savino.