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There is no segmentation in brand strategy. There are segments. There are segment priorities.

This I learned from Peter Kim, while he was the strategy head at McCann-Erickson in the 90s. On the iteration of the brief he pulled together at the time – which I still use today – Mr. Kim talked about understanding all target audiences. As we know, it’s a big world out there and many targets purchase and influence purchase. In Mr. Kim’s rigor, once you understood all the different targets, it was time to “remassify” them into one target. From that one mass target he asked you to determine a shared attitude or care-about all would agree upon.

One might think this could create an opportunity to water down the care-about. And it may…but only if you let it. Brand planners have to prioritize at this point. They may have to hold one part of the target more sales-sacred. Brands touch everyone. No one should be left behind.

Segmentation studies make it so one focuses the brand claim on the most likely buyer. But in branding we try to speak to the masses. Segmentation comes later once the brand strategy is cooked.



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Segment Differently.

For strategic planners of a certain stripe (read brand planners) segmentation is not just about physical characteristics, e.g., purchase frequency, amount purchased, price sensitivity.  It’s about psychological characteristics. If one tries to pattern people into motivational, psycho-social and cultural groupings, things begin to look different.  It is these patterns that provide insights that help create more impactful marketing ideas.

Let’s look at education a little differently. Here are three different student segments.  First Impoverished in Body.  Those who live in Karachi or Rio or Dharavi….or in crazy poverty in the U.S.  Students who worship the ability to learn and better themselves. Kids starved for education, inspiration and opportunity. They sit at the front of the class and shush the other kids. At the other end of the spectrum live the Silver Spoon Kids of Privilege. Bred to succeed, sired for $40,000 a year private high schools, loved and nurtured to be better earners. And in the middle, the third segment, the Public School Majority. What’s the opposite of a Tiger Mom? These kids float through school not to prepare for the future, but because the bus picks them up. No idea about major, a modicum of pride in grades, education for them is not a tool but a pass time. Sports and booty rule the day.  (There are a lot of grays I missed, yo understando, but these are okay brackets.)

These segments are palpable. Alive. Rich. Worthy of deep thought for marketing minds. If you are Staples or St. John’s University, Apple or JanSport how do you think about your consumers? And their parents. Segment different. Peace.

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Loss of Control is one of marketing’s 6 most motivating selling strategies. (I haven’t locked down on the other 5, though “save money” and “better service” have to be included.)

I wrote a brief once for a home healthcare service catering to well-heeled, upscale individuals who didn’t need to rely on Medicare for payment. I called the target “Captains of the Castle,” a mixed metaphor indicating that not only were these people heads of household from a financial standpoint, they were one-time captains of industry.

Let’s just say, back in the day these individuals were powerful, proud and in control.  Now in their 70 and 80s, Captains of the Castle are still proud, but in failing health and no longer powerful or running the show. (You’ve seen this black and white movie, no?)

Most healthcare marketing in the home care category targets the caregiver. This brief was aimed not at the caregiver but at the care recipients — the Captains. The promise or offer was a specialized homecare program that gave them control back.  Control in their own homes.   (In fact, the brief generated a new product idea.) 

As you are writing briefs and segmenting your targets, don’t forget to ask yourself about the loss of control as a motivator.  And, as you are selecting your media, message and proof, don’t cede control to the consumer.  Media Socialists think that’s the haps and they are largely wrong. Peace!

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