Segmentation models and why they often don’t work

by | Oct 15, 2012 | Assorted

I’m always amazed whenever I see a client’s segmentation model. It often feels like seeing a dinosaur fossil, because that’s exactly what these models are to me. I’ve come across a company that routinely (about every six months or so) re-segments its market.
I thought that the idea was ludicrous, mainly due to the absurd amount of cost and time that go into these studies. Upon ruminating I realised that I find the entire idea of segmentation utterly offensive. Here is why.

Remnants of a bygone era
I think that I just don’t get segmentation models because businesses tend to segment their markets based on the most crass and rudimentary data available to them. It’s usually things like income, age and race. Of course these factors impact on the way people will respond to products and brands, but surely these measures are archaic in today’s fast-paced, everything-at-my-fingertips society?

Removing the human element
Think of the person you love most in this world. Now think about into which of your segments that person falls.

Does the segment even begin to describe the person you thought of? Their complexity, emotions, thoughts, likes and dislikes? Probably not. And that is my major gripe with these marketing relics.

We seem to be so caught up in trying to place our consumers into convenient boxes that we forget that they’re flesh and blood people.

Quite a few companies have realised that the traditional way of segmenting the market isn’t the way to go. So they’ve tried attitudinal segmentation. Another fail.

Our individual attitudes and opinions are as unique as our fingerprints. How could we, as marketers, ever be as arrogant as to think that we could group people together based on their ratings of a few sentences?

We are all outliers
After analysing hundreds of data sets I’m pretty au fait with removing data outliers and analysing data within an acceptable variation of the mean. The principles of segmentation remove all variables that aren’t within a minuscule percentage of the mean, and that is why I disagree with it.

We can’t be everything to everyone

I believe that too many brands today attempt the one size fits all approach. Admittedly, many segmentation models are designed with the aim of countering that type of thinking, but it’s also why many fail. Why try to talk to different consumers differently?

The simple fact is that people do not like being neatly packaged into generic little boxes. Once we start talking to people plainly and honestly, without all the marketing hogwash, we will gain their attention. That’s a pretty good place to start if you ask me.


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