Human-Centric Segmentation

Why people do what they do

People buy for emotional reasons and then look for rational reasons to explain those emotional decisions. More and more marketers, in B2C or even B2B, are recognizing this primary driver of purchase decisions. They are charging out of the gate to design new market research techniques and segmentation that will help them uncover the attitudes and values that drive these emotional decisions – commonly called psychographics research – rather than the more function-driven demographic research they have done in the past. Better late than never!

A lot has been written about psychographics research making the strong argument that attitude and lifestyle data are more valuable in determining customer behavior than the traditional demographic segmentation based on such factors as age, sex, and address. However, most brand positionings I see these days in Turkey and elsewhere still talk about the target in terms of demographics and category usage. The media does the same in telling you whom you can reach with your message almost completely in terms of demographics. This is part of the problem. It’s kind of like the tail-wagging dog, with brand managers adapting their targeted communications strategy to media specifications.

Segmentation - current identified problems

What’s missing?

Simply not having a broader understanding of our customers’ lives. An understanding that is necessary if we intend to develop brand value propositions that are more meaningful for them. We don’t know enough about where they go throughout their day, and why they go there, to be able to understand the right time to engage them with our advertising message rather than just interrupt them with an advertisement. Something we do too often. Us marketers know a lot about how our customers use and buy our own category, but we don’t really understand the role of our category in the broader sense of their overall life. We lack the information we need to better align functional and emotional benefits in our brand positioning.

Functional benefits are usually more directly related to how the customer uses the product. Emotional benefits are typically related to how using the product impacts their life. And finally, we need to better understand our customers as human beings with full lives so that we can better reach them at a time when they are receptive to our brand message. All of this is Human-Centric Marketing. It starts with deeper human insights that tells you why people do what they do; knowing that enables you to better understand their motivations so you can sell them more stuff, more often.

Human centric marketing flow chart

Human-Centric Segmentation

To fully understand why people do what they do, we need to get beyond demographics and even category segmentation and look at who customers are as human beings. We need to see what in their lifestyle connects us to their wants and needs (need states). Then, we need to go even deeper and look at their hopes, fears, and aspirations (tension points) to better understand their motivations.

We used the usual demographic filters to analyze hundreds of values and attitudes statements in databases comprised of over 15,000 respondents. But the key was capturing the buying and consumption behavior within that 15,000 person database of over 3,000 brands across 500 product and service categories.

As a result, we have a better understanding not only of what people say they care about, but what they actually do. Where someone shops for clothes; the types of fruit juice they drink; where they go on vacation; which brand of cigarettes they smoke; which mobile handset they use; and how they use it, for example, says a lot about who they are. Consequently, we were able to move out of the longstanding research trap of mistaking stated importance (what they say they do) with derived importance (what they actually do). We also included media consumption in our algorithms – when and what they watch.

Human centric segmentation - data filtering process

As a result of what is basically a cluster analysis aided by some rather complex algorithms, we were able to determine 22 distinct lifestyle segments in Turkey spread across 3 different life stages from young to old.

Turkish Human-Centric Segmentation

Human centric segmentation - turkish segments

This doesn’t mean that every Young White Turk drives the same car, frequents the same social media site, goes to the same place on vacation, or has the same income. But it does mean that there are so many hits across all those demographic, psychographic, and consumption data points that it becomes quite clear what the ‘default mode’ is on any one of them. Balancer parents would state that they struggle to ‘balance work and home life and often feel guilty when they come up short somehow in each – they feel impossibly stretched all the time’. We can verify if they really are Balancers by what they do at weekends. Do they let their kids eat sugared cereals in the morning? What type of car do they drive? Where do they live? These are just 4 of the possible 500 or so category areas that can be cross-tabulated.

Your brand consists of many features that can deliver against a range of functional and emotional benefits. Linking the right benefits to the right customers is why you do segmentation research in the first place. And knowing the broader context of your customers’ lives gets to the heart of why they emotionally connect to your brand.

Let’s look at this in practice:

There are two relatively affluent early life stage (no kids yet) consumer segments in the Turkish market called Conscious Progressives and Young White Turks. Demographically they are quite similar.

Human centric segmentation - segment overview

Apple is the most powerful brand in the world according to a recent global brand value survey. Both of our young Turkish segments like Apple products, but their motivations and ultimate product choices are quite different. That Apple understands the broader perspective of their customers’ lives and then targets their messaging and product benefits to different segments for different emotional and functional reasons is why they have maintained the personal touch with individual customers while becoming a very popular mass product.

Customer decison process

It is not an easy thing to let go of a reliance on your category-based customer research and start down the path of understanding your customer from a total life perspective (human-centric segmentation). Sooner or later, though, you will get there because it is the only way you are going to get out in front of the customers’ decision process to offer them the right product with the right message at the right time and place. That customers do not like advertising is a myth. They want brand information to help them make better choices. However, they would just like to choose when they get it. They will respond favorably if you clarify the context and role of your product in their overall lives. It’s the future and it’s here already!

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