Redefining Audience: Flipping Consumer Segmentation on its Head


Prior to the social media boom, segmentation was a manageable feat incurred by basic demographics like generational age, gender, marital status and so on. However, as buyers have become more knowledgeable and have acquired more ways to communicate their personal consumer journey to others than ever before, traditional segmentation has been flipped on its head and now has to shift in focus in order to truly appeal to the appropriate buying audience.

For example, now companies need to focus on specific passion points in order to truly communicate effectively with customers and guide them through the marketing funnel. As the consumer makes his/her journey through the buying experience, it is imperative to remain appealing to the consumer on more than the transaction level. Consequently, the best approach is a top of the funnel approach; where branding becomes this complex company image that is impacted by experience but also supported by valuable, relevant and sincere content and branding that speak to something that consumers care about.

When considering buyer audience, one of the first questions one should ask is how does what I do resolve a higher order problem or appeal to a passion area for the consumer. Then one must target those consumers who are the most passionate about or can benefit most from the product or service provided. Consequently, once those consumers are identified, marketing efforts should be geared toward that consumer segment despite differences in typical demographics, such as age and marital status.

For example, consider for a moment how financial institutions talk to and segment their customers. Most financial services companies segment their prospects and customers based on the services that they have or qualify for. For instance, if a group of customers has a mortgage and a credit card then they will offer that demographic ‘X’ type of deal when, in actuality, the consumer is more interested in forming a relationship with the financial institution that is stress free and works on more than just the bottom of the funnel, transaction level.

Another example is the automotive industry. When one buys a car, they are really looking for a way to convey identity as well as acquire a safe, reliable vehicle. Car companies have to tap into that identity passion point, just as banks have to tap into taking the stress out of banking. Tapping into passion points like these is a top of the funnel approach, reaching the consumer audience by appealing to their needs and desires and also making the consumer journey so positive that consumers will want to share the experience with others.

An excellent example of this top of the funnel approach and rebranding to fit consumer passion is Coca-Cola. One of the oldest companies in the U.S., Coca-Cola has had to reinvent itself many times and acts as a good example of a corporation appealing to its consumer audience’s passion points through that reinvention. For example, if one goes to Coca-Cola’s website and clicks on their “Live Positively” link, one sees buzz phrases like “Balanced Living,” “Community,” “Environment,” and “Global Outreach.”  Through the content on their site, Coke is trying to debunk some of the bad rep that both soda and artificial sweeteners have garnered in recent years with socially responsible content that consumers care about and find relevant.

The result is that consumers engage in honey pots of conversation where the consumers’ age, location and marital status are null. What becomes more important and relevant to consumer audience and engagement is what consumers find most important and relevant in their day to day lives, like being a good parent or establishing their identity or relevant social issues.

We are in the time of the enlightened buyer, and consumers now embody a sense of tribalism as a result of social media. For example, very few consumers these days make a purchase without first checking out the product via online and social channels, whether it be Facebook, Twitter or reviews from other consumers. They may even post to their Facebook wall asking if their friends and family have experience with a product or company before making a buying decision.

Remember to appeal to the appropriate consumer audience you have to look beyond the basic segmentation demographics of twenty years ago. Most consumers are talking more to each other than ever before, and they are talking to consumers outside of their own demographics; additionally, many consumers are more socially responsible and so are looking for products and services that they can feel good about purchasing. These changes in the buyer journey make segmentation a complex beast that must be altered for top of the funnel engagement.

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