Magazine article Marketing

Opinion

Magazine article Marketing

Opinion

Article excerpt

The words of Peter Doyle, the brilliant marketing professor, are indispensable for evaluating wild forays into segmentation.

If you're reading this column online, what you won't see is that the version in print features a cut-out-and-keep panel, a segment that contains, appropriately enough, the 73 sanest words you'll ever hear on the subject of segmentation. (The online crowd just gets a link.)

The words aren't mine. They are those of the late Professor Peter Doyle - his famous 'five criteria' - and they should be kept handily about the person in the event of ambush by an enthusiastic promoter of a segmentation strategy that, allegedly, will be transformative for your brand.

Leaps into segmentation silliness can come from anywhere, but the chief culprits are researchers and agency planners. They are dangerous in the usual way - they build on something solid, so your guard is down and they add a top-note of pure imagination, so your spirits soar; all of which blinds you to the fact they've left a great big hole in the middle, where crucial data should be.

What's solid enough is the notion of segmentation itself, as a viable marketing strategy. Without it, markets, consumers and brands would all be the poorer, in categories from airlines to dog food. So it's easy to nod in anticipation to one that might apply to you.

What's imaginative - often wildly so - is the newly identified segment for which your brand is apparently bulls-eye. The proponents will not have sliced by demographics - they are far too nuanced to offer anything so crude and discredited. Instead, they will describe an attitudinal palette, a set of beliefs and behaviours that unifies this attractive new crowd.

Pictures will be shown, life stories painted, and - the telltale sign of danger - the segment will be given a natty name: 'mildly messy moms', 'home haven hunters', 'disorganised divas'.

The missing piece? Everything that really matters: How many? How profitable? With what overlap? Can they be economically reached? Do not worry. Doyle's criteria will help you fill that void - as they have more than once for me.

Doyle's criterion No.4, alone, would put a line through most of these wild segmentation forays: how do you isolate your discrete target in communications? I remember an agency pitch for a muesli brand where the planner had separated the female universe into 'Mrs Harvest', who likes to put a lot of variety on the table, and 'Mrs Plain', who plays it straight, culinary-wise. …

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