Lesson 3: Know Your Segment, Know Your Category

Since Carl had been successful in dramatizing the importance of research, analysis and creativity, the next logical step was to learn how best to perform this activity. To discover more about these techniques, I turned to Suzy who has been a Senior Vice President for many, many years at a global, multinational advertising agency.

Suzy began our conversation by emphasizing the importance of segmentation. Today, more than ever, it is important to segment finely. She explained that selling to someone who loves to create in the kitchen is simply not good enough. For what types of dishes are they specialists? Are they novices or “hard-core” pros at what they do? Are they cooks or bakers?

Once a segment has been defined, you can begin to define the key opinion leaders (KOLs). Inventing the future is always a unique challenge so asking the hard-core baker what would make things easier for them is sometimes not the best way to learn what to invent. Suzy recommended that when interviewing these KOLs, one should try to get them to complain. Ask them what frustrates them in the process and delve deeply. (Is it the rolling pin? The surface?) These types of questions can create great opportunities.

We began to explore more deeply the other elements that go into understanding the target market segment. Suzy explained that a meaningful market research program will discuss the sentimental and emotional aspects that are so integralĀ  to the design and marketing of the product.

Suzy classified this effort in the context of ethnography. Ethnography is founded on the idea that a system’s properties cannot necessarily be accurately understood independently of each other. Context is decisive and so one often needs direct, first-hand observation of daily behavior. This may lead to a discussion about the role of the family and the meaning of home. Such a process may also include participant observation. Sometimes this involves conversations with different levels of formality such as small talk to long in-depth interviews.

In our circumstance, this might mean going into several homes to observe how a housewares product is being used and in what context. While quantitative research can provide data, this type of research creates knowledge founded on intimacy, the connection between the mind and the heart and the way it is manifested in behavior. (These types of interviews are sometimes videotaped and used in campaigns to convince retailers to carry a product because of its emotional value to the consumer.)

All of this knowledge is valuable in so many contexts but none may be more important than this.

Understanding your product and the context within which it is valued allows you to know your product category and once you do, you can develop line extensions across multiple dimensions such as the target segment or whether your product is a time saver, problem solver or part of a suite of solutions that integrate with one another.

When you are very clear about this aspect, you are now ready to begin to build your consumer franchise…which will be the subject of our next post.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Leadership, Sales, Strategic Plans, Strategy

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