Marketers have a challenging job. We have to develop goods and services and then communicate the benefits and awareness of those products to a diverse customer base. We use tools like segmentation and target marketing to help narrow our focus but ultimately we have to wrestle with the fact that no two customers are identical and if we segment too much we run into diminishing marginal returns. This is also a challenge when conducting research to learn about the needs and motivations of potential customers. The use of personas is a common way of trying to personify our target segments but challenges and pitfalls still exist. This Marketoonist cartoon and the associated article talks about the author’s experience working with a client who was drowning in customer data and unsure how to use that data effectively. The persona creation process ultimately gave them the clarity they needed. The article includes some additional great persona cartoons as well.
Luxury goods can facilitate good discussions when talking about consumers and their buying behavior. If you’re looking for a current topic to use when talking with your students, consider the new Lamborghini Aventador SVJ. The new luxury sports car is faster and pricier ($518,000) than the base Aventador model. Only 900 of the new model will be produced which can add to the status achieved by owners of the car (and can further influence purchasing decisions). You might also use this in a discussion about segmentation or marketing strategy. Who would be the target market for this car? How can Lamborghini effectively target that market and what might their marketing mix look like?
The concept of segmentation is important to us as marketers. We use segmentation to help us focus our strategies so we can do a better job of marketing to a specific group rather than poor, generic marketing to the masses. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of equating stereotypes and segments.
This cartoon from marketoonist.com illustrates this concept as it relates to millennials. Millennials represent 25% of the US population and have buying power in excess of $1 trillion so it’s no wonder that companies want to find a way to tap into that demographic but “millennial” isn’t generally a good definition of a market segment. In Essentials of Marketing we define a market segment as a relatively homogeneous group of customers who will respond to a marketing mix in a similar way. Consider that there’s a 23 year age difference between the oldest and youngest millennials and that over half of all millennial households have children. It quickly becomes obvious that further definition is required to truly specify a target market. Try discussing this dilemma with your students. How can companies develop a marketing mix that focuses on “millennials” when that demographic is so diverse?
Bloomberg’s short article/interview entitled “A Folding Bike Helmet That Looks Good and Still Shields Your Brain” shows inventors can still find room to innovate, even in a mature product market. Spanish inventor, Carlos Ferrando, created a bike helmet that has two unique features – it collapses/folds to reduce space when not in use, and it is designed to be more aesthetically appealing than the traditional bike helmet. Ferrando said he wants his helmet to “normalize the idea of wearing one (bike helmet) as a fashion accessory”.
Ask your students who they think the target market for this product would be. If they say “bicycle riders” push them to go deeper. It’s true that anyone who rides a bicycle could benefit from this product but a mass market strategy is unlikely to be as successful for a product like this. A segmented strategy has a better chance of success. In chapter 4 we offer a possible market segmentation for the bicycle-riders product-market. If students believe this product could effectively serve multiple segments you might want to break them into groups and have each group focus on a particular segment. Ask each group to develop a promotional strategy for their target market. After a few minutes have each group share their strategy and discuss the differences. If the students did a good job there should be distinct strategies for each market. If the strategies are generally similar then they’ve taken a “Combiner” approach which doesn’t really cater to the unique attributes of each segment. Either way, you have a good discussion!