|Learn how to understand what market segmentation is, why you'd want to use it, and how to make it work for you.|
What is segmenting the market?
When might you segment the market?
How can you segment the market?
Suppose you're trying to put together a social marketing campaign to reduce youth violence in your community.
A lot of people are going to have to change their behavior for that to happen:
In addition, some of these people may welcome the opportunity to change, and others may resist it. Others may not even be aware that youth violence is a community problem.
You might conduct your violence reduction campaign with a single message, delivered through a particular channel - let's say a TV campaign.
But each of these groups may need a different approach to be convinced to change in ways that will affect the issue. Each of these groups is a different segment of the market. If you were selling them cars instead of promoting violence reduction, you'd do market research to find what each of them wanted in a vehicle, and then gear your ad campaign to convince them that they'd get it if they bought what you were selling.
You can segment the market in the same way for a social marketing campaign, making it more likely that your message will be heard. This section will help you understand what market segmentation is, why you'd want to use it, and how to make it work for you.
Much of the literature on social marketing seems to assume that all social marketers are large organizations with access to big media outlets and professional-quality ad campaigns. This chapter of the Tool Box assumes that social marketing can be done on any number of levels, and that even small organizations with minimal budgets can use social marketing principles to achieve change in their communities.
What is segmenting the market?
"Segmenting" is a marketing term for dividing up your audience into groups according to particular criteria. The members of each group have at least one important factor in common with the other members of the same group, and that factor sets them apart from all the other groups.
The criteria that you use to determine your groups should have some relationship to how they'll respond to your message. Segmenting will help determine how you deliver your message as well as its content.
If we return to the youth violence reduction campaign referred to in the introduction, we can see several ways the different segments we need to address could be separated. "Youth" might be broken down into gang members and non-gang members, for instance, or into under-16 and 16-and-over. Your segmenting choices would depend on how different the messages might need to be to reach particular groups.
Perhaps a message delivered by a popular hip-hop group would reach most youth in the community, regardless of gang affiliation or age. But it would take a very different message and messenger to reach business people or parents. Segmenting the market can help you make sure that your message is not only getting to everyone who needs to hear it, but increases the likelihood that they will listen to it.
Market segmenting enhances your ability to figure out the four P's of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion. The different segments of your target population:
Segmenting your market helps to assure that everyone gets what he needs to support the process of change you hope he'll go through.
When might you segment the market?
The easiest and cheapest social marketing strategy is to blanket the target population with a single message. Segmenting the market takes some effort and resources, and designing a campaign that appeals to several segments takes a great deal more. When does it make sense to pay the price?
When you're concerned about a particular segment of the population because of the incidence or severity of a problem among its members, or because it may have fewer resources to advocate for or protect itself. Some examples:
When listening to the target population makes it obvious that it's composed of a number of different segments with different concerns and different ways of viewing the issue and the world.
When it's clear - from market research or simple common sense - that you'll need very different messages to reach different segments of the target population.
When some segments of the target population are easily reachable and others aren't. It may require very innovative approaches to reach homeless people, for example.
When your organization has the resources and the capacity to tailor its marketing to different segments of the target audience. If you're running a media campaign, you'll need the money to pay for - and perhaps to create - several sets of ads and/or the time to spend placing newspaper stories. You'll need to have, or have access to, the expertise to understand what your campaign should look like, and to devise it. Even if your project involves delivering the same brochure in different languages, it may still require additional costs. And if your campaign is run as a public service by media and created pro bono by an ad agency or PR firm, you'll still have to spend a lot of time with those folks so they understand how to present your message.
Whichever situation applies, organizational capacity is critical. The best-planned social marketing campaign can't be carried out without the proper resources of money, time, and staff. A well-planned campaign that fails because of the lack of these resources is just as futile - and looks just as bad - as a badly-conceived and badly -planned campaign. Only when you're sure of the ability of the organization to take on the costs necessary to be effective should you start looking at segmenting your market.
How can you segment the market?
Social marketers in general choose their segmenting criteria from one or more of five general categories: demographic, geographic, physical/personal history, psychographics (related to beliefs and values), and behavior.
Demographic characteristics have to do with people's vital statistics, the sort of information you might get from census figures. You can find out how many of your target population fall into different demographic categories by checking the latest census data (You can get it in the library or on line at the your local town planning office, tax records, and other public documents.
Some of the demographic categories you might look at are:
This one's simple: it refers to where people live. Often, that's an important factor in reaching a targeted group. Besides country, region (e.g. the Midwest), and state, there are some other geographic divisions you might use:
This category includes the physical and medical characteristics and personal experiences that groups of individuals have in common that may influence their responses to social marketing.
Some of these include:
Psychographic characteristics are those that fill out demographic ones with people's lifestyles, beliefs, and values. Demographics may tell you about someone's income; psychographics tells you what she thinks the government should do with her taxes.
Some psychographic characteristics that might interest a social marketer:
For a commercial marketer, behavior means behavior in relation to the product she's trying to sell: brand loyalty, how people decide to buy a certain product (its price, its quality, its reliability, its brand name), how they'll use it, whether they've bought it before, how much they know about it, etc. For a social marketer, behavior also means behavior in relation to what you're interested in, but that translates into a somewhat different set of characteristics.
Social marketing campaign. There, a six-stage model was proposed to describe people's positions, from complete lack of awareness to having incorporated changes into their lives:
Understanding where people are on this scale is among the most important factors in deciding when and how to segment your market. Aiming your message at a segment that's defined by its willingness to consider changing behavior toward the issue may be the most effective way to approach that change.
Some other issues to consider in developing a social marketing campaign are:
Different segments of the target audience may have different levels of involvement in and knowledge about the issue, may have different attitudes toward it, and may respond to different kinds of arguments and information about it. As a social marketer, you can reach each of these segments - or each of the ones most important to your campaign - by aiming your message specifically at it, using what you know about it.
But how do you decide which of all these criteria to use to define segments of your population? As explained above, there are numerous ways that a community or a group can be segmented by using and combining criteria. Given all the different choices, how do you divide your audience into segments that will be helpful to you in a social marketing campaign?
The answer is in the target audience itself. As with all social marketing, segmenting needs to be focused on the people whose behavior needs to change if the campaign is to be successful.
Deciding which segments to focus on
Once you've defined segments, you have to determine what your targets will actually be. As always in social marketing, the best answer is to turn to the "consumers" themselves, i.e. those people whose behavior you want to change. If you examine who needs to change, whose changes can be most helpful to your campaign, and what their stances are on change, you'll have a pretty good idea whom to target. There are some formal criteria to help you make that decision.
Once commercial marketers have segmented their audience, they use four basic criteria to decide which segments to target: measurability, accessibility, substantiality , and actionability.
For a commercial marketer, this is the ability to determine whether a particular segment is large enough and has enough purchasing power to be worth pursuing. For you, it's whether change in a particular segment of the population will have a significant effect on the issue you're addressing. If your goal is to make sure that all five-year-olds in the community have had a full range of immunizations, for instance, you know you want to target their parents. But what about their grandparents or older siblings? Can you determine whether there are there enough of them, and whether they're important enough in influencing parents' decisions to make targeting them worthwhile?
Can you reach a particular segment with your message? If immunization is rare in a particular language minority community, but you have no "in's" to that community, and no one available who speaks its language, that segment is not accessible, as things stand. By the same token, a neighborhood whose residents mistrust outsiders and pay very little attention to any information that doesn't come directly from people they know is also less than accessible.
Is the segment large enough and likely to yield enough of a return to be worth targeting? Developing a social marketing campaign around immunization may not be worth it if only a few families have failed to immunize their children. It would make much more sense in that case to spread your message by personal contact.
The segment has to have characteristics that are distinct enough to make it possible to target a campaign specifically to it. "Parents of children under five" may not be distinct enough for a social marketing campaign to encourage immunization. You may have to target separately to teen parents, single mothers, families without health insurance, families whose locations make it difficult to get to a clinic, etc.
Besides these four basic criteria for segmenting an audience, it's important to include one other:
Position on the change scale.
As described above, segments can be defined by their position on the scale of change, from lack of knowledge about the problem to maintaining the new behavior. This position, according to Alan Andreasen in Marketing Social Change, is the single most important criterion for segmenting your market.
People need to know about and understand the issue before they can even begin to think about acting on it. Once they know about it, they have to be convinced of its relevance to their own situation, of the benefits of changing their behavior, of the possibility of change, etc. Each stage requires a different approach to move people to the next stage of the process... and moving them to the next stage is the proper goal, rather than trying to get them all the way to the end in one effort. Research seems to show that by tailoring the marketing message to the appropriate stage of the change process, social marketers are most likely to get behavioral results in the long run.
Addressing the targeted segments
Once you've decided whom you want to target, what's next? The first step is to consider what kind of social marketing campaign you want to conduct. Commercial marketers usually see themselves as having three choices, depending upon their needs and resources : undifferentiated marketing, differentiated marketing, and concentrated marketing.
is the practice of developing one message aimed in the same way at everyone you want to reach. In the early days of TV, particularly, most commercial campaigns were run this way. A single ad, or a series of similar ads - often humorous - would saturate the airwaves for weeks or months: Speedy Alka-Selzer, the Ajax Cleanser jingle, and "See the USA in your Chevrolet" are all familiar to those who watched TV in the '50's and early '60's. They permeated everyone's consciousness, and created an enormous awareness of the products they advertised.
That's the up side. The disadvantages of an undifferentiated campaign lie in trying to create a message and presentation that will speak to everyone on some level. That's difficult even when the members of your target audience are all similar in some way: teen mothers, or gay men, or unemployed adults. When the audience is diverse, the difficulties mount. What white youth will respond to may be very different from what older black people will. Democratic apartment-dwellers may have reactions opposite to those of Republican homeowners.
In addition, an undifferentiated message is usually pretty general: support this issue; do this, don't do that. The subtleties of the message are lost ("This is your brain on drugs." All drugs? Over-the counter drugs? The first time you use them?), as are the differences between what you might want one segment to do (Don't start using drugs), as opposed to another (Talk to your kids about the real dangers of using drugs).
The great advantage of undifferentiated marketing is that it's inexpensive, in both time and money. If you're short on resources, it may be your only logical choice. Your message gets to a broad range of people with a minimum of fuss. When you're trying to raise the awareness of the whole community about an important issue, it may be the best way to spread the word.
A differentiated marketing campaign
separates out those segments it actually wants or needs to reach (the groups included in "people at risk of contracting HIV," for instance.) Then it designs a message and presentation specifically for each segment.
Once again, this type of campaign has some disadvantages. First, it can be complex, especially if you're trying to reach a large number of segments. You have to come up with a tailored message for each group, one that is not only aimed at helping that group understand what and why it should change, but one that its members actually respond to.
Differentiated marketing can be very expensive, both in time and effort and in money. In addition to the energy needed to create a different message and presentation for each segment, there are the costs of producing and distributing all these different messages. Even if the campaign is a local one, involving mostly volunteer labor and ideas, it will require a serious investment of resources.
On the other hand, differentiated marketing, if done well, can be extremely effective at reaching exactly the groups you want to reach, and motivating them to make the changes you're working toward.
As the name implies, concentrates on the single segment, or very small number of segments that include those most crucial to the campaign's effort. Rather than all of those at risk for HIV, for instance, it might target only those at the greatest and most immediate risk (IV drug users, perhaps ).
Deciding whom to target in a concentrated campaign depends upon what the goal is. If you're trying to change perceptions in the community, you might target those who are most influential. If you're trying to deal with the spread of a problem, you might want to target those who are most ready and most likely to change their behavior as a result of the campaign. If you're trying to turn around a bad situation, you might aim at those most immediately affected by the issue at hand. Yet another way to choose a segment is to target those who might be most susceptible to the campaign, regardless of their readiness or how severely they're affected by the issue.
Concentrated marketing has the disadvantage of ignoring many segments that may be affected by the issue or may be helpful in bringing about the desired changes in the community. It chooses to cover one small piece of the total market extremely well, but at the expense of ignoring a large portion of the community.
If you have limited resources, however, or if there are only one, or very few segments that need to be reached, concentrated marketing may be an excellent strategy.
If your audience includes both teens and middle-aged business people, it's probably pretty obvious that you wouldn't use the same message, or at least the same form of message, for both of them. For the former, you might choose to emphasize what their peers are doing, and - if you're using the media - present the message in a rapidly changing rock video format. For the latter, you might appeal to practical or economic reasons for change, and have those reasons presented straightforwardly by a professional-looking person in a suit (or, better yet, by Alan Greenspan).
Some other kinds of division also require different kinds and/or forms of messages.Some of the segments to think about include:
As with all of social marketing, the best practice is to start with those whose behavior you want to change. If you listen carefully to their needs, wants, and opinions, and pretest messages with them, you are likely to be able to choose the right segments and devise a campaign aimed at those segments that gets results.
An important part of a social marketing campaign is segmenting your market, i.e. dividing it into coherent groups, each of which might respond to a different approach. Creating an approach for each segment of your target audience will make it more likely that your message will be heard and followed.
Commercial marketers use four standard sets of characteristics for segmenting the market: demographic (vital statistics - gender, age, income, education, etc.), geographic (where people live), psychographic (beliefs, values, tastes, opinions), and behavior.
Once you've identified market segments using these characteristics, you can determine whether particular segments are worth targeting by looking at four criteria:
After you've decided which segments are worth targeting, you can pick an undifferentiated, a differentiated, or a concentrated marketing approach to make the best use of your available resources and to reach as much of the target audience as you can.
Careful segmentation of your market will increase the chances of your social marketing campaign's success.
"Building Social Marketing into Your Program," by Nedra Kline Weinreich. Advice from a consultant.
"Social Marketing for Organizations," from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
"A Short Course in Social Marketing." Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development.
VALS. Explanation of the VALS (values and lifestyles) system of identifying market segments.
Andreasen, R. (1995). Marketing Social Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Herron, D. Marketing Nonprofit Programs and Services. San Francisco: Jossey -Bass Publishers, 1997.
Kotler, Philip, & Alan, R. (1987). Strategic Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations, third edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
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Weinreich, N. (1999). Hands-On Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.