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Identifying Your Consumer Is Half The Battle Won

For a relatively matured sector like mobile handsets which has high penetration, faster replacement cycle and heavy competition, identifying your consumer can be the start point to success

Photo Credit : Reuters


Whilst this may sound simple, it is as complex as the Riddler's maze. It is the basics of any business yet in the boardroom if you ask all the members on their definition of the consumer, you will not get the same answer.

The consumer definition has evolved over the years as we learn more about consumers through measurable consumer indicators. Till about a decade back given the basic data fields available, a consumer was defined by a few demographic parameters. That was the age of traditional media. Times have changed and now we know much more about consumers through technology and their digital footprint. And therefore, since a lot more gets measured now, much has improved for smart marketers.

However, many businesses still maintain a wider demographic range for the core consumer segment. There is nothing right or wrong in that. It is quite possible that their product appeal is vast. A wider range also enlarges the opportunity it presents for business and is a great temptation for shareholders and investors alike. Industry maturity and competition have a large role to play here. For any new sector, the marketer rightly wishes to harvest as much of the field as he can, to drive product adoption. The Insurance sector is a good case in point where after liberalisation in 2000, many companies jumped in and expanded distribution to sell to as many. However, the industry is far from maturity. The mobile phone sector launched just a few years before privatisation has different dynamics and is amongst the most matured markets in the world. Maturity, therefore, means penetration and not the age of the sector.

A brand's entry at a particular time in the industry's maturity cycle also has a large impact in deciding your customer segment. For a relatively underpenetrated sector, the Insurance logic of harvesting as many fields as you can hold good. However, that has faced troubled waters as most private players are unable to drive penetration by leaps and bounds. Since then, consumer definitions have become more focused for brands to carve out their space in a highly undifferentiated market.

For a relatively matured sector like mobile handsets which has high penetration, faster replacement cycle and heavy competition, identifying your consumer can be the start point to success.  In this matured market, a possible solution is to go narrow and deep and be sharp to a few than hazy to many.

The wider and narrow definitions of the consumer have their pros and cons. A wider one spans across various consumer life stages which means that consumer is starkly different from one another in almost everything that they do. This impacts channels of distribution, product development and most importantly consumer insights. A larger audience profile virtually forces marketers to look at generic surface level insights which have the chance to appeal to many thereby diluting the communication uniqueness and differentiation. A narrower consumer segment enables marketers to explore deep level insights which have much more relevance and have a better chance of driving higher differentiation and drive closer affinities.  

A possible solution for marketers who legitimately may have or want to have a wider consumer definition is to make their communication mix achieve specific objectives through targeted media channels. Traditional media may serve the purpose of building awareness for the brand at a high level. It is then that BTL and digital will enable sharper focussing on sub-segments of consumers to drive engagements more relevant to their life stage and lives. 

Both these media enable that, and it is the BTL content generation amplified on digital which can have a rippling effect. Digital media has the unique advantage of sub-segmenting consumers on various parameters and generating relevant communication which can be reached to the consumer through paid, bought or earned media.

Given either of the situations, it goes without saying that identifying sharp nuances of the consumer become the key to developing your marketing mix. In the ever-growing hyper-competition today, brands need to carve their spaces sharply. Gone are the days when mass products could create mass appeal. These are days of defining sharper consumer segments and driving the marketing mix accordingly to attain brand success.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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consumers branding marketing opinion

Sumit Sehgal

The author is Chief Marketing Officer, COMIO India

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