In 1964, Daniel Yankelovich introduced in the pages of Harvard Business Review the concept of nondemographic segmentation, by which he meant the classification of consumers according to criteria other than age, residence, income, and such. The predictive power of marketing studies based on demographics was no longer strong enough to serve as a basis for marketing strategy, he argued. Buying patterns had become far better guides to consumers' future purchases. In addition, properly constructed nondemographic segmentations could help companies determine which products to develop, which distribution channels to sell them in, how much to charge for them, and how to advertise them.
But more than 40 years later, non-demographic segmentation has become just as unenlightening as demographic segmentation had been. Today, the technique is used almost exclusively to fulfill the needs of advertising, which it serves mainly by populating commercials with characters with whom viewers can identify. It is true that psychographic types like High-Tech Harry and Joe Six-Pack may capture some truth about real people's lifestyles, attitudes, self-image, and aspirations. But they are no better than demographics at predicting purchase behavior. Thus, they give corporate decision makers very little idea of how to keep customers or capture new ones.
Now, Yankelovich and Marakon argue the case for a broad view of non-demographic segmentation. They describe the elements of a smart segmentation strategy, explaining how segmentations meant to strengthen brand identity differ from those capable of telling a company which markets it should enter and what goods to make. And they introduce their "gravity of decision spectrum," a tool that focuses on the form of consumer behavior that should be of the greatest interest to marketers -- the importance that consumers place on a product or product category.
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