The quest for research that provides greater insight into consumers can be an engine that drives innovation and activation for growth. So can research that focuses on more effective and efficient means of revealing opportunity targets and identifying messaging strategies that will be target-relevant.

Today’s “research renaissance” has been a breeding ground for new and emerging research approaches that promise and provide avenues to new insights. But sometimes, the hoped for end results and outcomes may miss in-going expectations.

This is sometimes the case with market segmentation studies that uncover “interesting” segments that management may not view with great enthusiasm. That is usually because the segmentation has not been based on business-relevant variables…those that drive category or brand choice.

In our experience, virtually all business teams are interested in an insightful segmentation schema that will define targets and reveal their needs, their buying motivations, their beliefs and behaviors that trigger brand choices and sales growth. So for a segmentation deliverable that is well-aligned with business objectives, we offer some suggestions for maximizing the alignment of the deliverables with management objectives:

  • During the segmentation study planning stage, the study team should ensure that category/brand choice drivers are discussed and included in the survey metrics:
    • Potential choice drivers to include can be sourced from prior research knowledge base
    • Also exploratory work (focus groups, dyads, ethnographies) can be useful for surfacing other possible choice driver mechanisms.
  • Consider a segmentation modeling process that can mathematically explore the interaction of multiple variables on brand choice, concept uptake, etc.
    • Consumer choices are often shaped by several different rational and emotional factors operating in conjunction with each other (needs, attitudes, life styles, etc.).

Just as important, a few “watch-outs” to avoid misalignments with business objectives:

  • Be cautious of any segmentation that rests primarily on demographics. Demographically based segmentation seldom leads to new or actionable insights that will catalyze growth:
    • While demographics do matter, they almost never reveal clear segments. In fact, consumers from the same demographic strata often make different brand choices! What car brand do you drive? What about your neighbors?
  • Steer clear of pre-determined segmentation models of total populations that are periodically touted for strategic application:
    • These “Cookie Cutter” segmentations are, with rare exception, based on such broad lifestyle and demographic traits that they cannot possibly provide clear links to consumer brand choices or strategically insightful deep dives within a specific category

Summing up…for the most business-relevant, insightful segmentation:

  • Update and identify the rational and emotional variables that drive brand choice.
  • Conduct segmentation analytics that consider a variety of different variables that potentially drive choice.
  • Use the segmentation framework to define targets, communication and products/services aligned with business growth objectives.