Choose who to target
What is it?
Because people are different, a crucial element of a marketing strategy is selecting target audiences. Segmentation is the process of identifying groups with similar needs or preferences, who will respond in a similar way to a given set of stimuli and activities. More >
Segmentation may be on the basis of: demographics, such as age or gender; geo-graphics, such as country or rural/urban areas; psychographics, such as lifestyle; or behavioural factors, such as brand loyalty, or a combination of some or all of the above. Other approaches which derive from these include ‘service utilisation’, for example, use of a general practitioner or specialist clinic for family planning advice; by ‘key influencers/influences’, for example, those particularly vulnerable to peer group pressure; by ‘social network analysis’, for example, active and passive members of a community; and (in a health context) by ‘epidemiological factors’, such as blood pressure levels. All have strengths and weaknesses and it should be noted that there is no one best way to segment a target population.
It may be appropriate to group and cluster behaviours to understand what motivates the audience and help develop specific objectives for the intervention.
Behavioural clustering involves identifying and grouping the many behaviours which can make up a particular problem, or desired, behaviour. For example, what are the behavioural steps needed to take more exercise? More >
Lifestyle factors such as lack of physical activity, poor diet and smoking are well recognised as the cause of many illnesses, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Wider influences, such as the availability and nature of leisure facilities, or employment, will also affect an individual’s lifestyle and the community.
Why do this?
The benefits of segmentation and targeting your approach are:
- Increased knowledge and understanding of the target audience
- It is easier to identify trends in the target audience
- More efficient use of resources
- Interventions and programmes can be tailored more effectively
Ability to set meaningful objectives. More >
As many behaviours are complex, breaking them down helps develop specific objectives. ‘Unhealthy eating’, for example, can cover a multitude of sins, including snacking, choosing the wrong food, eating too much at one meal and so on. Even these examples are also quite broad. Snacking can mean biscuits with coffee or a small meal mid afternoon. Eating large meals may involve dining out regularly. People may engage in some or many of these activities and there may be different reasons for each, so different solutions are needed.
How might you do this?
Bring together the key players to consider the target audience. More >
This could be for a workshop or away-day where the steering group and others can explore the audience and how it is composed.
Check that key players understand the meaning and importance of audience segmentation. More >
It is important that, if required, principles are clarified and any misunderstandings corrected.
Identify segmentation criteria and variables, bearing in mind that there are many potential segmentation variables to choose from.
Focus on those variables relating to the desired behaviour as well as problem behaviour. More >
Neglecting those with the desired behaviour may:
Result in this target audience adopting the negative behaviour. For example, one potential target audience includes young people aged between 12-15 who have never smoked and whose peer group do not smoke. A programme aimed at smoking prevention is appropriate here, harnessing the positive group behaviour and potentially involving schools.
Ignore important information that helps us understand the reasons why people shun negative behaviour. For example, one target audience consists of young people aged between 16-24 whose peer group smokes but they have never smoked. Understanding their resistance to group pressure will help you develop positive messages for others.
Evaluate potential target audiences once they have been identified. More >
It might be helpful to consider if the target audience is:
Homogenous - The principle of audience segmentation rests on the premise that individuals within that group are relatively homogenous and therefore likely to respond in similar ways.
Accessible – Can the target audience be reached by existing or potential communication and distribution channels and services?
Measurable - Individuals within the segment must be clearly identifiable so that the size of the audience can be established. It is also important to measure the success of the intervention, for example in terms of the percentage of people using a service Actionable - This refers to the resources of the organisation and its ability to reach and influence the audience. For example, will the audience perceive the benefits of the desired behaviour change? Is there a strong likelihood that the negative behaviours will change?
Viable/Substantial - Commercial organisations will consider any market that is profitable and sustainable. Social marketers must assess whether the target audience will fulfil the programme objectives and justify the resources allocated to it.
Ethical - Programmes may be criticised for directing resources towards some groups and not others. Decisions must be justifiable - based on sound research and insight - use resources efficiently, be likely to achieve objectives and deliver maximum social good.
You might find it useful to look at an approach to segmentation carried out in 2006 by the Department of Health
Department of Health - An Approach to Health Segmentation
The aim of this study was to build on existing research and knowledge to arrive at a segmentation of the population of England, looking at the drivers of behaviour across the six public health priority areas, i.e. smoking, obesity, substance misuse, mental health, alcohol and sexual health. The research used epidemiology, social and consumer research and the public health targets to produce a model to target audiences. The following factors were considered:
- attitudes towards health, decision making priorities, aspirations (and other shared attitudes which may affect health behaviours); and
- knowledge, attitudes and beliefs forming the basis of current behaviours.
Three overarching ‘dimensions’ were identified that had the greatest significance when identifying population segments most likely to adopt ‘at-risk’ health behaviours, and which work collectively to determine people’s ability to live healthily and their likelihood of doing so. These were:
Age/life-stage – includes 10 groups roughly corresponding to 8 age groups, i.e. childhood, discovery teens, freedom years, younger settlers (and younger jugglers), older settlers (and older jugglers), alone again, active retirement, ageing retirement.
Circumstances/Environments – three main groups of factors considered: social (being surrounded by positive/negative social norms); physical (such as living in a deprived community); and economic (such as surviving for long periods on a low income). This provides an axis for placing target audiences between positive and negative environmental factors.
Attitudes/beliefs towards health and health issues – this includes: the extent to which they hold a long -/short term life view; the extent to which they are complacent about the relationship between at-risk behaviours and health; the extent of their confidence in their own ability to make positive changes to their health and well-being; and the extent to which they take part in at-risk behaviours. This provides an axis for placing target audiences between high and low motivation.
The segmentation model pulls together all three dimensions: age/life-stage, circumstances/environments, and attitudes/beliefs. The life-stage is the foundation, with each life-stage then segmented further by circumstances and attitudes into four categories - ‘fighters’, ‘thrivers’, ‘disengaged’ and ‘survivors’.
For further details see Healthy Foundations: A Segmentation Model, Department of Health, 2008 or for the full version of the Healthy Foundations Research Hypothesis Report
(2006), please e-mail: email@example.com)
If the secondary evidence is insufficient, select up to three target audiences with whom you can conduct primary research.
Remember, research can be expensive so the more focused your brief, the more economical it will be.
Encourage people to describe behaviours in as detailed a way as possible, then cluster these specific examples into groups that show similar features.
Avoid blanket and non-specific behaviours, for example, for food behaviour ‘eating high fat foods’ is too general – be more specific.
A list of specific target audiences, described by segmentation variables.
An analysis of the viability of each target audience according to specific criteria.
A behaviour tree for a specific generic behaviour.
A clear understanding of whose behaviour the social marketing intervention must address.
Identifying specific target audiences which fulfil the criteria for effective segmentation and targeting.
A better understanding of the many behaviours which contribute to the overall ‘generic’ behaviour.
A good basis for analysing the determinants of behaviour, identifying appropriate interventions and setting realistic goals.