Data-Driven Segmentation: Fueling Stereotypes or Defying Them?



Shravya Kaparthi (pictured left) discusses how marketers (and data professionals) can best use data to unravel some of the most lucrative opportunities with respect to segmentation without necessarily crossing any ethical/moral/social boundaries while prioritizing relevance and effectiveness above everything else. 

I struggle not to roll my eyes when marketers tell me their target audience is Millennials. It is such a broad and generic term, like most traditional data parameters these days. No two people — even those of the same age, race, occupation, hometown, income, sexuality, and gender — will spend similarly. In fact, they might live completely different lifestyles. Segmentation is important for marketing, but far too often we rely on stereotypes to place people into narrow, neatly defined boxes.

Expecting a certain behavior because someone is from a group (e.g., single black women in
their 30s) is an act of futility. But grouping people by behaviors — such as binge watchers,
marathoners, or life stage-driven behavior groups such as new parents, homebuyers, pre-
movers, etc. — enables solid conversion funneling, brilliant context-driven content, and
quantifiable results.

We have more access than ever to better data and more sophisticated analytical tools, and it’s time for marketers to start using these correctly. Let’s drop the stereotypes, unite people in more meaningful ways, and redefine the role of the brand/product in the customer’s life.

Avoid Bandwagon Followers

Generations aren’t really a thing, yet media and marketers love to focus on the exploits of
Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and so on. We also have a habit of dissecting
statistics among races, genders, age, and more — maybe because Census data is so widely
available. Old practices die hard.

Throwing money at these marketing avenues may reach the right audiences and gain a return, but it’s not the best way to guarantee contextually relevant brand experiences that enable long-term, healthy customer relationships — the ultimate task of marketers.

My context, media consumption, and shopping habits on a busy working Monday are much
different from my Saturday indulgences (such as a long run followed by an elaborate brunch). When and how a marketing message reaches me could determine how receptive I am to the pitch.

Invest in Data-Driven Processes

There’s no shortage of technology available to improve segmentation models. And what
better environment could we ask for than this addressable, one-to-one media world. It is
imperative to invest in a comprehensive segmentation process. Focus on these three stages:

1. Previously Unknown: At this stage, enable prospects to opt-in to marketing initiatives.
Facilitate a mutual information-sharing platform by clearly communicating the merits of data-value exchange, a great way to not just understand them better, but also to strengthen the brand relationship. In the process, you’ll be moving from prospects to personas. For one of our clients, an infant-nutrition brand, we target potential new parents and give them enough reasons to opt-in to a digital-guiding platform. Over time, we invest in getting to know them better by their interactions with the platform.

2. Personal Relationship: As we get to know personas better, it’s time to drill down to
segments of one. As marketers, we want to be choice architects, ultimately influencing our
customers’ decisions. This is possible only through contextually relevant personalized
experiences. Personalization goes beyond name and address. We need to craft the right
experience but let the customer navigate his way through the journey.

3. Supporting Every Moment: Once we get to the segment of one, diagnose the most
significant points of pain, influence, and apathy — the moments that matter the most across the customer journey. By quantifying moments where there’s the biggest potential for business impact and identifying the right media channels, brands can prioritize efforts around the most significant opportunities to create truly differentiated value.

In the previous digitized platform example, we craft personalized guided journeys through
pregnancy and infant nutrition, including useful information, interactive tools, product
coupons, and recognition to help new parents give their little ones a healthy start.

Far too often, we fall into the comfort of labeling people, but different individuals have
different needs at any given moment. Sometimes the needs intersect, and sometimes they
don’t. Our goal as marketers isn’t to label people by data parameters — it’s to blend and
define the role of our goods and services in our customers’ lives and contribute to powerful
conversations defying conventional myths and stereotypes in the process.


Shravya Kaparthi, Strategy & Decision Sciences at RAPP, has experience in people
interpretation, innovative problem solving, and developing marketing strategies that inspire
creative solutions. Her cross-cultural experience stretches across consumer-facing, data-
driven industries such as media and entertainment, retail, telecom, consumer goods, and
healthcare. Shravya is a true explorer at heart and curious about behavioral economics,
cultural sociology, and technology.


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