Defining segments demographically will be an extremely costly method
By Haseeb -ur-Rahman
Apr 24 - 30, 2000
Working in strategic planning, I frequently come across a number of
brands and the typical dilemmas of how can we make these brands "connect" with
the customers. The problem is usually more or less the same across the board "What is
going to be the Brand DNA upon which all communication should be based?" Simple as it
may sound this is a very tough question to answer with the pluralistic society emerging
where values are hard to harmonize especially with the increasing fragmentation that we
are witnessing as a society with various segments emerging within a city with multifarious
needs and wants.
Take a simple example. When we professionals start our jobs, we
dont begin with segments in mind but usually with branded products. Now take the STP
approach for instance in this case and its relevance in communication. What use does it
have? Lets say you have been appointed as an Asst. Brand Manager (ABM) in a famous
FMCG company and you have been given the task of developing a complete brand communication
plan. How would you do a complete segmentation analysis in terms of defining your brands
potential target market in demographics, psycho-graphics, behavioural intentions etc and
how would this affect brand communication? Where would you begin?
Note here when I say communication I dont mean the media through
which the communication takes place but the message which is communicated through a
variety of media. Simply it is what you are saying not through what you are saying it!
Defining your segments demographically will be an extremely costly and
time-consuming method. Pepsi never says its for the age segment of 10-19 or Cartier
never says it is for those who earn above $ X thousand. Ask any brand manager and he will
tell you that variables like income, gender, occupation, family size, for any brand are
usually determined intuitively rather than through hard-core quantitative research. How
can you tell if the defined variable like income for your segment is actually relevant or
not across all of Pakistan?
Coming to our initial question what would you do if you were the ABM?
How would you know that other demographic variable like income, gender, family size, age
etc. affect your brands consumption via communication? Would you ask your management to
let you conduct a million-dollar national research? Chances are that youll get the
boot for putting such a (un)reasonable demand!
This is where the concept of brands jumps in. Rather than looking at
the demographics of your customers study their psychographics and behavioural life style.
But wait a minute!
What is a brand? Its basically a spirit of your customers
psychographics and behavioural lifestyles captured in a few words. The intangible bonding
that "connects" your customer with you. Take examples:
Nike- The athlete with attitude in all of us (Attitude is a
BMW -Successful executives going places (Success concepts are
Dettol- Individuals who fear the infection (Fear is a psychographic
Other psychographic and behavioural variables like lifestyle, class,
personality, occasions, benefits, etc of potential consumers are the drivers behind
successful brand communication. And trust me on one thing.... You wont get these
through quantitative research.
What do I mean by this? Well what I mean is simple. To know which
psychographic or behavioural variable is relevant to our brand we must conduct qualitative
study to determine what insights can we find which will allow us to develop our brand
communication plan. This means we must hold focus groups, one to one interview, shop with
our consumers, observe them in dinner parties, go on vacations with them or whatever the
methodology but we must understand them as human beings and define how our brand fits into
their life styles, hopes, aspirations, or the like of these psycho-graphic variable.
So whats the catch here? Simple! Research what your consumer
would want hear through these various qualitative research methods and then think where
the gaps and vacuums emerge. Once this is done try to define who your brand is for, who
your brand is, and why should any one buy your brand.
Then come up with a benefit (USP with rational driven positioning),
image (thematic with outward oriented emotion driven positioning) and feelings (thematic
with inward oriented emotional driven positioning) and then focus on just one of them to
drive your brand communication. In any case this is a very human exercise where conjoint
analysis or multi-variate analysis are not the means but a simple heart to heart talk
which does the trick. For those who define brands through statistical measures and not
psychology with help of concepts like projective techniques or transactional analysis
there is sure to be failure. Coke got that back when it launched New Coke and failed
miserably since its taste tests were product oriented ignoring brand perceptions.
Segmentation as a concept must be restudied as today in an imperfect
world with imperfect knowledge we cannot afford to make ourselves slow just because of the
excuse that we dont know how to position ourselves because all the demographic
information is not available. This information may be important for a sales forecast but
as far as brand communication goes its relevance is highly limited.
I would like to emphasize once more that until this type of brand
positioning which is focused in what it wants to say does not develop we can never see
success in communication since the concept of integrated brand communication is not that
all medias must be used, but rather that all medias whatever they may be
(through which your brand is speaking) must say the same thing. The message is the voice
of all brand communication and must be developed using qualitative research techniques.
In the end what matters is getting your message across and if this
approach helps you then go for it....whose there to stop you.