the era of segmentation marketing

August 6, 2009 ·

we're coming to the end of an era where we target market. where we hone in on the one specific group of our consumer base and tailor the communications (primarily) at them. this goes as mass media goes - by the wayside. this has been talked about some in the last few months, with people in both camps. i find it very difficult to see how this isn't the way of the future.

target marketing was a byproduct of an inability to do anything but shout at consumers in a singular way because the channels couldn't accommodate anything else. we were forced to identify that one group who are the best prospects, highest user base, or most receptive and build campaigns for them and hope everyone else still gets it and continues using the brand. this would often be coupled with a strategy of watering down the message to have a broader appeal without being focused on the core. well, that's changing and so must our perceptions about who and how we talk to people.

we know our products and services have a broad consumer base, yet we only service and message a portion of them. the shift is that we'll be able to communicate with different groups in a meaningful and dedicated way. so it isn't target marketing anymore, it will be segment marketing.

there may still be a core group (one of the segments) by which there is more concerted focus (for instance experiential where it is costly to execute in multiple, specific iterations), for which priority is given to invest against, and with which the beliefs and personality of the brand are realized to the fullest. the other segments become executionally different, with the same tone and manner, in channels of their specificity or delivered individually. there could be an egalitarian approach too where all segments are deemed of equal value and invested accordingly.

segments don't have to be drawn along demographic lines. not anymore. increasingly the data is available where we can layer in different targeting types or qualifications that make people a group beyond their age or gender. behaviors, mindset, product life cycle, purchase history, and others are ways that we will be able to bundle people into addressable segments.

the number of segments any brand can have is variable. there are as many as a brand can support in a meaningful way. the good thing is that segments don't have to remain constant forever. they can be dynamic, shift over time all with research to validate these decisions.

the beauty is there is no crossover with digital. we can't alienate anyone when the ad is tailored to them, nor can we aggravate people because it's only being seen by the people we want and who want to see it.

aside from maintenance and/or growth against your target market (which is being done now) segmented marketing opens up two other scenarios:
  • protecting - there's likely a number of segments any brand currently has that are vulnerable to leaving your stable because you don't maintain them (engage with or speak to meaningfully) with communications. these are the consumers that are users, but not loyalists.
  • growth - by reaching out to other segments previously ignored (or at least not paid specific attention to) you have the ability to nurture them and grow their affinity and usage of your brand.
to a good degree, the technology is there from a media perspective. we have behavioral targeting, demo targeting, and a number of other ways that we can be fairly specific about who our message is in front of. that's good, but it's only one half of the equation. the creative needs to be distinct by segment to have full effect and to make use of the technical media abilities.

cost wise, this situation leaves us either flat or down to what currently exists, for the media side. right now we buy entire audiences, paid for against a specific target (often more broad than we really care to) but we still pay full freight for the whole lot. now we either buy the whole lot and segment it with different messages (flat) or only buy those specific segments we want (down). either way, far more ideal in our effective use of the media.

as for creative, well that side of the business needs to be revamped in a number of ways. just one of those being creative development and making effective segmented work. it's being done to a small degree with some online but the traditional media needs an overhaul. dead will be the notion of the one big, expensive, production intense spot. the value isn't there in doing that anymore.

this is a few years away, but doesn't mean we should wait until it's upon us to act. we can use this time to research other segments, get to know them, find valuable touchpoints, develop and test creative, and other work to make sure we can hit the ground running when the technology is fully in place.




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