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Segments and Stereotypes

Mark Ritson has a regular column in Marketing Week. He tackles a problem that is often skimmed over in marketing. Stereotypes are often painfully close to the way marketers construct segments. What then can we say about segments and stereotypes.

Segments and Stereotypes

A segment doesn’t need to be based upon faulty generalizations. A segment well informed by in-depth analysis is different from an ill-founded stereotype. Research can help us find a set of people that bear common reactions to product offerings. If we do some research to back it up it isn’t the same as just having a dodgy gut feeling that some people are like some other people. It isn’t using stereotypes to try and sell English soccer programming to English ex-pats in North America if the data gives a reason to believe that they will be relatively receptive. (Of course, not all will be receptive but no approach is perfect).

When no research is done things might just be assumed from cultural cliches. Clearly, such approaches have been used (and often still aree used) for “gendered” products. But the assumptions made about age cohorts can also seem sweeping and often not backed by evidence.

Segments And Stereotypes

What Do Millenials Want In An Airline?

Mark Ritson vents about the launch of a new millennial-focused airline. This is despite research suggesting that in many ways millennials are pretty similar to the rest of us in their airline tastes. (Maybe they want to get there safely, on-time, and without having to talk to a stranger. That said, it is pretty easy to market to anyone if you just rely on stereotypes. What do you think younger people like?

You can see where this is all going. The airline is going to be very “digital” and staffed by young, hip and very casually dressed  young people who occasionally remember to bring you your beverage while worrying about global warming and posting pictures of their pets on Instagram.

(Ritson, 2017)

Suffice it say Ritson isn’t impressed by this approach to marketing.

My point is not just that focusing on millennials is a stupid, stupid approach to segmentation, but also that it is a totally unacceptable and offensive stereotype in an era when such things are meant to be behind us.

Ritson, 2017

He has a point. Next time you see a segment described in marketing check if there is data behind the choices. Many segmentation schemes can be based upon tired old cliches.

For more on stereotypes see here.

Read: Mark Ritson (2017) “Only crap marketers mistake stereotypes for segments”, Marketing Week, July 26th, 2017, (BTW Mark Ritson has a colorful turn of phrase that some may find crude).

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