Social grades

Social grades are a way of classifying people. It is particularly important for media companies, as the composition of their audience affects how much they can charge for advertising. A key metric is the proportion of an audience in the ABC1 grade (those with non-manual occupations). This refers to a system that uses the following categories:

  1. A: Higher managerial and professional
  2. B: Intermediate managerial and professional
  3. C1: Supervisory, clerical, junior managerial
  4. C2: Skilled manual workers
  5. D: Semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers
  6. E: State pensioners, casual workers

There are a number of problems with this classification which reflect how society has changed since it was devised decades ago. These limit its usefulness for marketing and advertising. The worst of these drawbacks are:

  • It classifies an entire household on the occupation of a single individual.
  • It ignores groups such as wealthy people who do not work and some groups of self-employed people.
  • It contains no information about the size or structure of households.
  • It is too broad brush: 55% of the British population are ABC1!

This does not mean that this system is useless, it does capture much important information in a simple form, however there are alternatives that can be used when appropriate. Examples include:

  • education
  • political leanings
  • family size and family life cycle - e.g., single person, couple, family children, "empty nest", sole survivor
  • type of housing - e.g. affluent suburbs, council estates, agricultural areas, affluent urban areas
  • behaviour - brand loyalty, purchasing patterns etc.
  • lifestyle and aspirations.
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