Demographics are dead. Meet Advanced Segmentation.


Last Updated: January 16, 2020

Advanced Segmentation Marketing Strategy

Do these two people look THE SAME to you? Does it look like they live exactly the same way? Do they buy the same products or services? Do they make decisions in the exact same way? They are both male, 45 to 54, college educated with above-average household income (sound familiar?). If we were to use demographic segmentation, you would think that those two men are identical.

Demographic segmentation has been around since the 1920’s. It’s been firmly entrenched in marketing for decades and I believe it’s time to start letting it go. It’s obvious, even from the minuscule example above, that grouping people by age range, gender, education and income is actually a very weak way to develop true target markets. This is one of the many fallacies of using demographics in modern marketing, especially considering social media which has completely rewired the way we communicate eliminating geographic and media outlet boundaries.

Below, you’ll find two practical alternatives (or enhancements) that rely on psychology to connect you to your ideal customers. They are used by some of the most powerful brands in the world.

Connecting to Values.

Each of us has a built-in set of filters that are developed through three significant periods. Imprint years (birth to 7 years old), Modeling period (8 to 14 years old) and finally Socialization (15 to 21 years old). This formative period sets up our core set of values and helps us distinguish good from bad, valuable from wasteful and so forth. You already know that people who primarily place value on the environment have a very different psychological makeup than those who primarily place value on material goods and money. So, why would you talk to them the same way?

We must consider that fact when aiming to build relationships in the marketplace. Your brand values and customer values should be aligned. One of the great, recent examples of connecting to personal values is Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. They managed to create a movement by distancing from the over-produced, superficial and “fake” model of beauty their industry has been flogging for decades. They connected to real women by focusing on self-esteem, empowerment and family values. This was then executed through a number of channels including YouTube, billboards, powerful TV ads and so forth.

I would almost consider segmenting by values a push marketing effort. To do it successfully, you have to reach in and discover what your brand’s core values REALLY are and if you’re comfortable with them. This is of monumental importance because you CAN NOT put up a fake front, especially online. People will tear you apart. Just look at what happened when Chevy tried to sell their Tahoe to younger, eco and tech-savvy audience (talk about a disconnect). Once you know the REAL core values of your brand, can you start connecting with the personal values of your customers through marketing campaigns.

So… are you family-friendly, professional, serious, accurate, bold, charming, supportive… have a think about it and start your next marketing strategy by focusing on values rather than age, gender and income level.

Finding Meaning.

Meaning is immensely powerful. It’s something thinkers have pondered, argued and thought about for many, many years. It’s at the core of who we are and how we make decisions. One of the most prominent figures in this space is Carl Jung, who brought about concepts such as the Collective Unconscious and Archetypes. That’s a deep rabbit hole to go down… so how about we bring these ideas into a marketing context. Think about what it MEANS to own a Hummer H1… How about what it MEANS to wear a handmade sweater from your travels to Peru?

Each of those items conveys a certain meaning which ties closely to how you identify with yourself and others. This aspect of advanced segmentation reaches into identity theory. It reaches past out logical defences and into understanding who we are and who we wish to be. One of the best examples over the years has been Harley Davidson. They created meaning around their brand and their customers. They created a gravitational pull for those who want to feel like a bit of an outlaw. To own a Harley means something. It’s why don’t we see many Honda motorcycle gangs. It’s a meaning, a construct, consumers can buy into. So, you’ll have a dentist who lives a nice, cushy life (who he is) and buys a Harley to connect to the outlaw inside (who he wishes to be).

So, how do you use this from a brand perspective? You create meaning through the tone and style of your branding and marketing. It emanates from the colours you use, the images you choose and even how the phone is answered. Make absolutely sure that each marketing piece connects to the meaning you wish to convey. In the social media marketing space, this would mean the tone of your status updates, the links you share, the writing style of your business blog… Think about what it MEANS to own or use your product or service.

From a segmentation aspect, think about who your customers ASPIRE to be and connect to that. Harley has the outlaw vibe, Salesforce has the success vibe and Nissan Leaf has an earth-saving vibe. What is yours? Once you know that, you’ll see a clearer path to finding your ideal customers. They are the ones who see themselves as outlaws, successful salespeople or earth savers.

Demographic segmentation is all but dead. Unfortunately, its still flogged by many media outlets and agencies of yesteryear. Its time to break out. If you want to create genuine relationships in the marketplace and substantially enhance your marketing strategy, consider connecting to values and meaning rather then age, gender and income level.



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