Marketing Strategy

Beyond Segmentation

Are you looking at the right segmentation metrics? A recent brief I saw from Actimel suggested that they weren’t…

Disclaimer: I subscribe to Idea Bounty, and that’s where I saw a crowdsourced brief for the new Actimel Campaign. While I was going to go in for it,time and the day job prevented me…

Segmentation is the art that makes marketing work, the art of talking to the right people in the right place at the right time and in the right way. That much is undeniable.

And there’s a plethora of options.

Geo-segmentation. Socio-demographic segmentation. Channel segmentation. Interest/affiliation/association segmentation. And so on…

So Actimel’s brief caught my eye – or, more specifically, their target audience segmentation did:

The target audience for Actimel is quite broad which is often hard to navigate: parents with kids, active adults, and seniors/retired people. We are aiming to target all of these people.

Therefore we get the impression that a lot of different people in different places and at different life-stages drink Actimel. And yes, that sort of broad segmentation would be a nightmare to navigate through.

This isn’t an uncommon thread to find in briefs – even in some of the briefs I’ve prepared in the past it’s a case of ‘We want to talk to everyone’. And yet, such broad segmentation can lead to middle-ground-pounding mediocrity where you try to please all of the people, all of the time. But here’s a newsflash:

You won’t please all of the people all of the time. Plus being that broad runs the risk of communicating at the audience, not with each of its constituent members…

Where does this leave segmentation?

My answer is in non-traditional segmentation routes. Let’s look at the case for Actimel and what it does.

Actimel is a product that claims to aid good health, great digestion and so on. Having had it in the past, I can confirm that it’s pretty good tasting, price-point is set at the mid-range on shelf and the packaging isn’t too offensive, sickly or otherwise pejorative.

In the mind of the consumer, there are two reasons for buying Actimel: 1) It tastes good. 2) It helps you to stay healthy.

That’s the segmentation right there.

First of all, you’re marketing to people who like things that taste good (don’t we all).

And secondly, you’re marketing to people who care about their health, or the health of those around them (in the case of parents who feed Actimel to their children). This segment can be subdivided yet further into three keys areas:

a) The unwell, who want to get better
b) The worried well, who are concerned about being unwell
c)The will-be-well crowd who aren’t worried about being unwell, but nevertheless want to avoid being unwell (that’s most of us – group b are just hypochondriacs).

I can almost guarantee that all of the company’s target audience profile falls into one of those two super segmentation categories. And each one of them throws up a million exciting communication thoughts, ideas and opportunities.

What does this mean?

This is segmentation from the core brand and core consumer base. This is segmentation designed to stay true to the people who have made the brand what it is (the purchasing consumer) as well as to the raison d’etre of the brand itself…

This is the segmentation the brand deserves.

Traditional segmentation is very good at telling you how to talk to the audience, where to be heard etc. That’s one of its greatest strengths, and to some extend you’ll still need it in the campaign mix. But only mechanically. You’ll need to know the broad scope of your core and target consumer bases to know where to put your billboard or which website to advertise on.

But to get to the real core, the really interesting segmentation in a market where you’re trying to talk to every man and his dog, you need to go back to core brand values and the core brand offer, examining what you do and why you do it.

So I think Actimel got it wrong in their brief. They left it too far open, too undefined (although that may have been a method of sorting the wheat from the chaff of entries), possibly too data-centric and not enough back to their core values. At least in my opinion…

Am I right or have I missed the point? What are your experiences in market segmentation and how do you tackle the ever-growing reams of data we’re exposed to? And what do you like to see in a brief?


3 thoughts on “Beyond Segmentation

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Beyond Segmentation « interacter --

  2. Interesting post.
    Your line of thinking makes sense – you’re basically segmenting the market based on physical and psychographic criteria: are you currently well or unwell, and do you want to be well or unwell in the future (you just omitted two of the squares of the quadrant).
    A more traditional way of thinking about it would have been simply to look at who purchases yogurt and dairy drinks. On the surface a nightmare, but if your goal is to lift incremental sales of an established consumer packaged good you might decide the right strategy could be to increase the amount of Actimel that current customers purchase, or to encourage purchasers of other yogurt/dairy drink brands to switch to Actimel. Then, if you found that the majority of yogurt purchases are made by mothers of families in their 20’s – 50’s and a smaller but still significant portion are made by female empty nesters in their 50’s – 70’s you’d have two relatively well-defined segments that we could figure out how to appeal to.
    Unless you believe that age/gender aren’t useful segmentations, which is a separate discussion…

  3. Hi Paul

    Thanks for your contribution!

    I think that the physical/psychographic criteria work quite well for a product such as Actimel, although I do agree that further segmentation into defined sociodemographic groups is really helpful for lifting like-for-like sales and encouraging switches in purchasing behaviours.

    I just found Actimel’s brief/segmentation really interesting in that it didn’t really give a core-brand approach, such as “We want to help people be well” or “we give people great taste experiences”, which would have provided initial macro-level segmentation (health, as mentioned above, and taste-connoisseurs, for example).

    The next level along the chain is, as you quite rightly say, the detailed ‘Who’ which gives you the mechanical approaches to design style, language, channel placement etc.

    Age/gender – yes, I think that they’re useful certainly. A 20 year old male is a different beast to the 50 year old professional female and the 70 year old retired man.

    However, I do believe that boundaries are becoming more fluid. My Mum, for example, is in her mid-50s (she won’t thank me for saying that), but has the energy, verve and life outlook of someone who you would associate being a good number of years younger.
    Similarly, Saga insurance used to be for ‘the olds’, people like my Grandmother. However, the 50-60 year old bracket seems much younger in outlook, possibly similar to the 35-45 bracket a decade or so ago – which doesn’t seem to be the original map for the Saga consumer.

    There are a number of interesting studies about aspects such as colour preferences between the genders at a young age ( (society influence) or–its-in-our-genes-462390.html (potential genetic difference)) which would influence the mechanics of producing the marketing/advertising/communication material to appeal to the ‘target’ audience of the behaviour modifying activity.

    I am interested in how the consumption of technology is influencing tradition channels through the age ranges. In the future, those lines (between young technologistas and older technophobes) are going to become blurred, which may (or may not) have a distinct impact on age demographic profiling…

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