Had a blast in New York this weekend, despite the freezing cold weather and swarms of tourists and shoppers. But of course, the primary factor of enjoyment while travelling-- at least for me -- is who I'm with. The trip was one of my Christmas gifts from the guy I'm dating, who just moved to DC for business (and when he starts keeping his blog up-to-date with his cool ideas, I'll include a link!). While we were in NY he gave me another gift: an Xbox, complete with an 'Enter the Matrix' game and an Xbox Live kit so we can play against each other while living in different cities. Earlier this evening I hooked it all up and started playing the Matrix... what a hoot. The last home video game I played was probably my Atari Space Invaders 20+ years ago. They sure have come a long way!
John Porcaro, who's on the Xbox marketing team at Microsoft, would probably confirm that a 41-year old CTO and a 34-year old female marketing consultant are not typical representatives of the Xbox target audience... or maybe so, depending on how they define their market. I just find this a great real-life example of why demographic target-audience profiling is so woefully insufficient. When we place logical but arbitrary boundaries on our target audience by age, income, etc. we miss out on some interesting ideas and applications for our products and services. Conversely, profiling customers by mindset can open up some new doors.
Two years ago while working for a regional phone company, I reviewed some very interesting research by the Network of City Business Journals called 'Getting into the Minds of Small Business Owners.' It identified 6 psychographic segments based on Motivation (like Money, Fame, Self-Reliance, etc.), Personality Traits (Competitive, Analytical, Helpful, etc) and Management Skills (Delegating, Organizing, Technology Capability, etc). By comparing the different mindsets, it became fairly easy to see the types of business owners that would be most receptive to my company's services... and this in turn was used to develop specific messages to appeal to those groups. Much more useful than the company's previous target audience classification: business owners with 4 to 24 business lines. If you market to small businesses, you can probably get a copy of this insightful research from your BJ rep.
Also, if you're interested in delving deep into how your customers think, pick up a copy of "How Customers Think" by Gerald Zaltman. Classic account planning how-to book, although it gets a bit creepy in a psychological, mind-control sort of way. I read most of it to and from NY, so I'm looking forward to finishing it.
So to wrap up my ramblings: Sure, there's a point of diminishing returns on how far you go with segmentation. If there are only 5 single men in America over 40 who would purchase an Xbox, then this segment certainly doesn't justify a new marketing initiative. However, I think it's worth the effort to break out of our self-defined limitations to learn -- to as great an extent as possible -- who's using our products, for what purpose and for what emotional benefit. Who knows, we might discover an opportunity to create a new marketing strategy, or even a whole new category.