Segments, Personas… They’re Actually Just People

Many brands rely on segmenting their target market to effectively prioritize their marketing or innovation activities and drive greater value. Market segmentation can help a brand ensure that they are not creating one-size-fits-all solutions, which often end up appealing to no one.


Which approach is right?

There are many different ways to approach segmentation or persona creation, some of the most common factors include geographic, demographic, behavioural and psychographic or attitudinal segmentation. Which one (or combination) is right for your brand depends on which will help you with your specific objectives. Typically marketers are looking to understand purchase behaviour as well as target advertising and/or new product development with their segmentation model.


How to develop your segments?

Developing a segmentation model often starts with creating some hypotheses by talking to some users and non-users within your category. Then most will collect data and there typically is some form of analysis that helps quantify the segments (trust me I’m over-simplifying this step). Quantifying the size and potential of segments is important so you have confidence the segments you wish to target represent a large enough group of the population. Segments are then often given creative names to help marketers relate to them.

Here is where many feel they are done with their segmentation, and they are off to the races.


Now, walk in their shoes!

Where we have seen real magic is when a brand takes their segmentation model a step further and start to deeply understand the ‘segments’, as humans; to take a walk in their shoes. A segmentation study may reveal that a segment called ‘working hard, no time to play’ is more likely to be males (62%), with 1.4 kids and they ‘over-index’ (or are more likely than average) to live in the suburbs (60%).


Who is that exactly?


We all know that no one has 1.4 kids, and if 62% are male, should we just ignore the 38% who are female? And what about the 40% who are not living in the suburbs? How do they interact with your brand and the category? What are their pain points, wishes, unmet needs?


As Marketing Week pointed out in a recent article by Cheryl Calverly:


The more sophisticated we get – with analytics, predictive modelling and rafts of data scientists – the less able we seem to be to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and create brands and interactions that genuinely make their lives better”


This is where qualitative research can illuminate the segments and add colour to quantitative models and analytics. In-home ethnographic interviews, mobile journals, shop-alongs, etc. all enable marketers and new product development team members to more deeply empathize with the people in their target segments. Anyone familiar with Design Thinking will know that the first step is ‘Empathize’. Empathy doesn’t happen from a data dashboard.


Here’s what the Upwords team heard from a product developer after we presented video insights that illuminated real, in the moment pain points from someone in one of their segments:


“Now when I’m designing new products, I’m not designing for the ‘quick meal prep’ segment,
I’m designing for Dan, his wife and 2 kids”.


The light went on for another client when they realized that their ‘deeply knowledgeable’ segment, while more educated than the rest, was still nowhere near as educated as the innovation team expected them to be. This would not have been revealed without actual conversations with them.

 If you have a segmentation model or are considering developing one, ask yourself, what do you really know about them, as humans? How might you walk a mile in their shoes to more deeply empathize with them?