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Market segmentations - How to target with mentalities, not demographies

Updated: May 4, 2023

Joyce Tsang Content Marketing on targeting like a pro
Different audiences - how to target with mentality

Those who are in marketing or advertising will often hear companies and brands say:

"Our target audience is x age, x status, living in x." or "Our brand is for x generation."

While these claims are often responded with nods and okays, let me ask you the following question - Would you, therefore, deny the purchase of a person who does not fit those demographies?

Graph of market segmentation by generation
Market segmentation by generation

What is market segmentation?

Fast Fact

Key takeaway

Of course not!

That is why it is time to look at market segmentations differently.

2. Making different people feel welcomed with proper market segmentation

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1. Demographic understanding is not enough for market segmentation

The demographics of your target audience is nothing more than just a broad idea of who you want to speak to. The details should be in identifying the mentality shared by your pool of customers. (This relates back to my previous article on "Customers are not interested in your product, They are interested in solving a problem.")

Joyce Tsang's lecture slide for Brand Management course at HKU Space
Joyce Tsang's lecture slide for Brand Management course at HKU Space

A great example is fashionable elderly couples. Most of the brands they wear do not consider them as their target audiences. But I can also guarantee you that the behaviours, pain points, and interests identified by these brands are shared by this pool of ignored customers.

2. Making different people feel welcomed with proper market segmentation

By targeting mentalities, you do not have to break your audiences into age groups and try to tailor make content that way. Indeed, there might be variations in hooks, depending on the status of your audiences, but the bulk of the content should be a one-size-fit-all situation because it's tapping into a mentality rather than form-filling facts of your target audiences.

Joyce Tsang's lecture slide for Brand Management course at HKU Space
Joyce Tsang's lecture slide for Brand Management course at HKU Space

The content you end up with becomes:

  • Truly relatable;

  • Representative of a lifestyle, not just an item;

  • Connects people into a "tribe" despite of their difference in age, gender, sex, etc.

3. Reaching untapped territories

Targeting mentalities also brings your brand towards untapped territories, making it easier to identify your niche. A great example is our Mentorship for Slashers program. We started off targeting anyone with an entrepreneurial mindset who is looking for a new option in life. The common image of such audiences are people around age 25-34, interested in social media and digital marketing.

To our surprise, our first enrolled mentee is a lady well over her 50's who is planning for her golden years after retirement. She became a key indicator for us that there is a bigger pool of potential leads out there. We were able to differentiate our mentorship program by highlighting our enrolment because of her. It has helped directed our copies and broadened our messaging as well.

"Gaming (as in playing video games) is a good example. In the 1980s, video game playing was almost exclusively the province of adolescent boys. But as gaming has evolved, not only have more teen boys been sucked in, but the original boys aged into middle-aged gamers. And girls got in on the action as well (not without some cultural controversy, but that’s a whole other story). The net impact is that if a game developer company in 2018 assumes that the primary target of the game is going to be teen boys, the company may be unwittingly locking themselves out of a much larger market, because teen boys no longer “define” the gaming market."

By targeting mentalities instead of demographies, your content can make all your potential customers feel welcomed instead of feeling like they are too young/ too old/ too x for you.

4. How do I find out my target audience's mentalities?

Target Audience Persona Reference
Target Audience Persona Reference

Source: SproutSocial

Apart from the general demographic information about age, gender, location, and employment, here are the items you'll need to dive into to spot targetable mentalities.

i) Pain point

What are the things they struggle with? An easy way to figure this out is by seeing what questions these people ask and what content they consume.

I tend to go through forums such as Reddit and Quora to spot common questions people ask and highlight the upvoted responses. Do the response point to a specific industry thought leader I can use to target around? What answers is the industry thought leader providing? That gives me hints about the problems my target audiences struggle with.

Secondly, I go through Google trends and suggested searches on Google. What pops up when I type in the questions I see my target audiences asking on forums? Are related keywords trending? If so, which ones? There, I can dig deeper into first-page websites and see what pain points are suggestive of their content.

ii) Values

What do these people believe in? There are two ways to research this.

One, I see the best content related to my keywords by doing a buzzsumo search. Then, I go through the comment section and see what people say. If they say things they agree with or supports, I start marking down concepts and ideas in the content. If such comments are absent, I go down the rabbit hole and look at other related content to get a better idea.

Secondly, I look for micro to macro influencers who fit my target audience description. I figure out their values from their social media feeds and look at the people in their community. Do they also agree? Is it something that is commonly shared? Also, it is niche enough? Then, I cross-reference such findings again with Google search and see if I can support such findings with reports, content, articles, etc.

iii) Goals

What do these people want to achieve? If I have information on their occupation, I tend to go down that route first and research career-related forecasts about their industry.

Are they struggling to advance the corporate ladder? Do they share common struggles at work? Usually, that points toward both professional and personal goals you can implement in content creation and ad targeting down the road.

Another way to figure out their goals is by researching industry-related success cases and seeing their achievements. That requires going through media coverage and PR materials such as interviews online. Such content often talks about the goals a specific individual has. By pulling them out and cross-checking with forum findings, you can see if the questions asked and the goals match up.

iv) Source of Information

Where do your target audiences go to find information? To understand this, I usually start with social media reports. I look into their audience understandings and see where my audiences are the most active according to their demographics.

Then, I go on the platform and start doing keyword research. I type in related terms I have found from the findings above and see if conversations are happening. If there is, what type of content is it? Is it educational, entertaining, news, or other? That gives me a good idea of what my target audiences are likely consuming on these platforms.

If you're focusing on Facebook, Facebook audience insights is a great starting point. Type in the demographic details and see the pool of audiences present. Look into the pages they follow to distinguish the type of content they are consuming there. That also signals their interests, which is valuable for content creation and targeting in the future.

v) Market segmentation by objections

What do they say no to, and why do they say no to it?

Most of the time, this results in learnings such as price sensitivity, social impact concerns, activists or environmental wariness, and other bigger issues like this. But sometimes, you might get hyper-focused objections, such as daily habits, personal concerns, impulses, and purchase triggers.

The best way to see what your target audiences object to is by going through the 1-star or poor reviews on your competitor's channels. See what people are complaining about and what they seem to care about the most. If you belong to the target audience yourself (this is common if you're a solopreneur or entrepreneur), ask yourself what repels you and stops you from making a purchase.

vi) Personality traits

How are your target audiences like as a person?

If you've run through the drills above, chances are, you'll likely have learned a lot about your target audiences, so much so you can make a visual image of them in your head. Of course, every individual will be different, but what information recurs in your research?

This is more of a mental exercise, but I try and find pictures that are suggestive and fit the research I have found. I start imagining them as a friend and see if it reminds me of any characters in fiction or non-fictional materials. Then, I pull out some traits and see if they can be proven by existing research or content. The important thing here is it doesn't have to be supported by heaps of facts. Rather, a single blog or social media post can be enough to justify its inclusion in your target audience persona. Because writing to one specific person is a powerful technique. There are bound to be people like that one person out there. It will help attract others to your community.

vii) Market segmentation by brands they support

Who do they buy from?

This is often overlooked by others in their target audience research, but I find this to be the most important piece of information. Because by figuring out who they trust, you can research the brand and identify values you can educatedly assume is what attracted your target audiences in the first place.

A person who loves H&M is very different from someone who buys from Patagonia. A person who buys from a company that requires them to bring their bag is very different from someone who prefers eating on the go. To figure out the brands your target audiences support, see if you can spot brand collaborations by industry thought leaders. See if the reaction is positive. If it is, you can include the brand in the list of brands your target audiences support.

As you can tell, figuring out your target audience's mentality requires a lot of research. And surprisingly, not a lot of the process can be replaced by tools. Of course, you can kickstart the journey through data and reports, but I think it is important to embark on the journey manually. That is where you spot interesting traits, which allows you to put the picture together. And to be honest, that is why it costs so much to engage a content marketer like myself to do the work for you through creating a content strategy!

But in any case, I hope this article has helped you recognize the importance of targeting beyond demographics. Flaunt your values, relate to a tribe, build your community, and see your brand grow with content marketing today.


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