How to use segmentation to bridge the gap between audience insights and media activation

Suzie Carbonell
Segmentation to bridge the gap between audience insights and media activation

In the era of big data that we live in, more is known about consumers’ attitudes, beliefs, preferences, and behaviors than ever before. Yet too many brands fail to match their sophisticated segmentations to the media buy. Suzanne Carbonell, Partner at Hall & Partners, believes that brand owners need to adapt.

We all want to target our audiences precisely. Segmentations help us to reach the people who will drive our business forward when they see messages that are designed to appeal to their habits and needs.

Yet most pre-determined marketing segmentations often exclude consumers’ personality traits and values found from psychographic segmentation specific to a client’s category and are overly focused on the demographics and media consumption behavior where the assumption is that they will match more easily to a media plan. As a result, both the simplest and most sophisticated of segmentations can languish in a presentation deck until the next segmentation, creating a disconnect between the detailed psychographic data required to craft personalized messages and the ability to find those people and purchase media space that targets them.

The most effective ad campaigns usually tap into human emotions, values, and aspirations, whereas most ad units are purchased based on demographics such as age, gender, race, and income. Messages designed to artfully connect with the targeted audience will not be as effective if your segmentations don’t effectively marry the psychographics and the demographic to find that audience.

So, what should a good segmentation look like?

Make sense to the client

Firstly, the segments need to make sense to the client, and more importantly, can they recognize themselves and their key consumers within them? If not, then the segmentation has a low probability of being adopted by key stakeholders. Detailed client discovery and co-creation of survey questionnaire items can usually overcome this challenge.

Provide a rich and differentiated profile of human experience and emotion

Does the segmentation contain enough psychographic information that clients can easily imagine the segments and understand their needs, wants, and desires? In addition, what differentiates one group from another? Without this level of profiling, creative departments may struggle to understand the audiences they are hoping to communicate with at a personal level. Purposeful and empathetic questionnaire development and well-developed target illumination and persona building are key to overcoming this challenge.

Drive action for media plans

And perhaps most importantly, does it drive actions for media plans, shaping and delivering focus across all communications.

Segmentations are expensive and therefore should be treasured pieces of research that can both fortify and foster brand and marketing activities. They are also insightful and there’s nothing less efficient for a marketing organization than to have this information in PowerPoint form sitting gathering dust in the corporate hard drive.

The typical scenario runs something like this: Brand A pays a research agency to identify the key groups in its user base and prospects. The research agency uses its proprietary tools to come up with a string of recommendations, typically outlining the key motivations and descriptions of these groups.

But it can be like fitting a square peg into a round hole. Marketers and media planners cannot always translate those descriptions into an activation program.

Media outlets, even with their much-vaunted capacity for data-driven targeting, are overly focused on demographics rather than attitudes, behaviors, and emotions and so then resort to looser approximations of the original insights, meaning greater wastage and less effective marketing.

This creates a critical roadblock, no matter how much first- or third-party data you have access to.

Include robust segment identification and location

It’s also important to consider whether the segments contain sufficient demographic information and media behaviors that allow the audiences to be easily located by media agencies. If not, then it can become difficult to track how successful a company is at reaching target audiences and ad spending can be unnecessarily expensive and inefficient. Linking segments to your current customer databases is one way of overcoming this challenge, as is the intentional and wise use of consumer demographics.

Activating the full power of segmentation

Great segmentations should be a tool for growth, but that’s only possible if it can be applied properly.

Applying innovative techniques to link segmentation samples to media consumption by demographic as well as behavior, attitudes, and values will ensure that lookalike segments on client data management platforms can offer enhanced media targeting. This means creatives and planners maximize the value of the deep human understanding and audience insights that a robust segmentation provides, giving a clear competitive advantage. There is so much more potential to make the latest marketing science techniques and tools more powerful than ever in the service of advertisers.