December 2000 | Harish Bijoor

Attitudinal segmentation

Harish Bijoor, vice-president, marketing, Tata Coffee, speaks of attitudinal segmentation and its impact on marketing strategy

Marketing is not a boorish vocation anymore. Marketing, in the years of the current series, is more sensitive than it ever was. The world is waking up to a transition that has been in the air for a while now. A transition that is viewing the consumer more as a real person with a real name. A big move from the marketing-to-the-masses culture we have lived through. Marketing to the target-segment. Marketing to the numbers. And indeed, marketing to the mere statistic out there in the Indian marketplace.

In the old days, sensitivity was important. Important only to an extent though. A sensitivity hampered by the lack of accurate data, the overt emphasis on target-segments, the even more overt view of the marketplace as a cluster of like-minded, like-thinking, like-viewing and like-using folks.

The days changed and disparate groups of people started speaking stories quite different from one another. Disparate groups further splintered in wild abandon. People asserted themselves to be individuals. Group sizes diminished rapidly and segments that were hitherto categorised into male, female, upper-income, lower-income, urban and rural, became definitions difficult to hold and sustain anymore.

The confused marketer in the marketplace continued to depend on mass-market categorisation, much to his own peril. Brands performed erratically, consumer propositions failed and the brand manager continued in a state of flux.

Simultaneously with all this, many things were happening in the media-scape, in the realm of direct marketing and very surely in the territory of accurate consumer insight. The consumer was waking up in every corner of the country and telling the avid market researcher of his many moods and attitudes. Of his many-splendoured needs, wants, aspirations, and most importantly, his attitude.

The discipline of market research, which hitherto believed in clustering the 'similars' and weeding out the ‘dissimilars’ (small as they used to be), found an uphill task staring at it. The 'dissimilars' were growing in their numbers. The 'similars' were there, but the "other" category of answers was a growing concern.

Society, multiple sets of brands in hitherto similar categories, splintered media options, sub-segmenting of opportunities in jobs, entertainment and life itself, spurred on this process. Every guy you met in your structured interview session had opinions that differed vastly with his neighbour. The very concept of clustering of the 'similars' was becoming a tough job to handle.

Traditional market research will always ignore this. It will ignore it through its very process of collection of such data by field-researchers who are more concerned with the methodology and the faithful recording of the responses more than anything else. But then, no marketing society can ignore it for long. The truth gets thrown up. And a new truth seems to be dawning in our lives.

The new truth I am referring to is the truth of the segmentation by attitude. Attitudinal segmentation, if you please! We have segmented our consumers for long on the basis of the traditional parameters that have lasted a lifetime. Men think different from the women? Yes. In the old days. There are huge islands of each in the other. And that is a truth.

Young people in the age group of 14-34 think very differently from those in the 35-50 age group? Yes. Again in the old days of mass-customer typification. People in rural areas react differently to a marketing stimulus. Differently than those modern blokes living in our metropolises? Yes. Again in the very old days of our marketing infancy.

Just look around and view with seriousness the tools we still use of mass-market segmentation for our brands of tampons and toothpaste alike. How do we still define our target-group? Urban, educated, female, aged between 14-25?

The case for attitudinal segmentation I make speaks of a truth as it is emerging in the Indian marketplace. People cannot be clubbed into artificial categories anymore. People are people. Diverse, exposed to the same media stimulus all over, well-connected to the world at large! The consumer today is less of a carefully cultivated mass being. He is more diverse. She has an attitude. And most of the time, it is all her own. Not governed by the geographical territory she occupies, not dictated by the age-bracket she finds herself born into, and certainly not dictated by the constraints of her income. Attitude is attitude. Attitude resides in diverse locations. Across clusters of apparently similar looking and feeling consumers. Yes, this very same attitude of Gowramma in remote Gajanur resides possibly in a Mrs Sarah Pillai in Tiruvananthapuram, in Mr Cyrus Topiwala residing in Colaba, and possibly even in a Ruth Robinson in far away Monte Carlo! And this is a target-segment. A positioning possibility as well!

Attitudes exist. They are secular in their residence. They transcend boundaries. They hold exciting potential for products and services in the new marketplace. The real truth then is in the attitude your consumer out there in the marketplace exhibits. Read the attitude right. Cluster your target-segment together. Cut out all these "artificials" we still use in our marketing life. Get to the real thing then. The days ahead are more exciting than the ones that have gone by in marketing bliss.

*Harish Bijoor is Vice-President (Marketing) at Tata Coffee Limited, Bangalore