How to segment a market psychologically

Continuing our series on linking human psychology to Big Data analytics, we explore how psychological motivations can help us understand market segmentation.


In the first post of this series on getting meaning from 'Big Data', we showed how approaching 'Big Data' with hypotheses based on human psychology leads to different types of insights.

In this post, we'll look at some of those insights around market segmentation.

“What business are you in?” is a perennial question for marketers and linking motivational psychology via the archetypal model to brand stories gives us a new way to think about it.

Don't ignore dominant motivations

In the previous post on building leading brands, we saw that category leaders tend to reflect the dominant motivations of consumers who are highly involved in the category. For example, iconic fragrance brands tell stories of intimacy and sensuality that reflect the 'lover' motivations of the category customers.

We also saw that brand can choose to complement the dominant motivations by linking them to its own distinctive story or to oppose those motivations with an alternative way of looking at the category - often creating a new segment within the category.

Four motivational areas

Within our archetypal psychology model, we can map archetypes to 4 major motivational areas (stability, freedom, change, belonging)

Building on the point above about dominant motivations, we would expect any one category to be centred on one of the 4 main motivations.

Starting from there, we can see that the stories told by different brands in a market should give us a clue to the motivational segmentation of that market.

Chocolate motivations

The chocolate market is an interesting example. Some brands tell stories dominated by indulgence and pleasure, reflecting lover motivations; others tell stories of prestige and luxury; others reflect an interest in purity and simplicity.

In fact we see brand stories that reflect customer motivations in all 4 motivational areas.

Of course, that is because the chocolate market is actually composed of a number of sub-categories, such as tablet chocolate, bars etc. that each centre on different motivational poles.

This means that different brands can act as brand leaders in each sub-category.

If your market shows this type of pattern, it could suggest an opportunity to focus on building leadership of a sub-category.

A common language of market segmentation

Many food products - including chocolate - have long histories in diverse cultures and the leading brand stories often reflect that history.

The American candy bar tells a different story from the Swiss tablet chocolate brand.

For brand owners creating global brands, mapping the motivational structure of the market within each culture gives a way of comparing different markets using a common language.

3 key questions to ask about your market segmentation:

1.  Does our segmentation link to customer motivations and goals?

2. Is our brand story linked to the dominant motivations of the category or are we actually targetting or crating a different market sub-segment?

3. Are those dominant motivations identical in different cultures?

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