How can one brand appeal to different segments?

At a recent workshop in Kuala Lumpur an Executive who overseas strategy at a global brand posed an interesting question her firm had been wrestling with:

“How can one brand appeal to different segments?”

The brand in question primarily targets females (especially Mums) with domestic ‘products’.  The brand architecture is complex so for the purposes of this post a single brand will be focused on to illustrate the point.

fly and balancing

Balance is a key issue when managing a brand across segments.

To address this challenge issues of ‘alignment’ and ‘balance’ need to be considered.  People do things with brands to say things about themselves. This means brand and target market segment personalities need to be aligned (to some extent). If they’re not they’ll be like ships passing in the night as the brand will hold little self expressive value for the target market.  It’s also crucial the brand’s personality acts as an emotional common denominator that appeals to all the target segments.  However, facets of the brand personality need to be emphasised in certain contexts and at certain moments in time. This helps ‘fine tune’ the brand’s appeal to certain segments.  So how does this work in reality?

Let’s say the brand’s personality is caring, dependable, domesticated, ambitious and informed. For the most part these are characteristics most Mums could identify with or relate to at certain points in their life. The caring and dependable “traits” could act as emotional common denominators that transcend the target segments. They have uniform emotional resonance that Mum’s align with. Which Mum wouldn’t want to be caring and buy a brand they can depend on?

The “First Time Mums” segment may feel the need to show they can take on this role via being domesticated. They need to show they’re domesticated and not just a “party girl” or “career lady”. The domesticated facet of the brand’s personality enables them to do this. They will identify with the core traits (caring / dependable) but also with being domesticated at that point in their life. In this sense the brand takes on symbolic role and helps First Time Mum’s communicate their desired role. The brand becomes an expressive device.

The “Career Mums” segment still feel the need to show they care and want a brand they can depend on. However, the focus may move from a need to demonstrate they’re domesticated to being ambitious and informed (even canny or astute) for selecting the brand. This segment doesn’t identify with domestication. That’s not their core symbolic need. A brand that is caring, dependable yet ambitious and informed meets their needs.

The key issues relates to alignment and balance. It is important the brand does not alienate a given segment when consumers move from one stage of their life to the next i.e. First Time Mum to Career Mum. This is achieved via the emotional pull of the common personality traits i.e. caring and dependable. Brand insight that reveals segments psychographics can help identify core values.


P&G sends a clear and emotional message to Mums during the 2012 Olympics.

Proctor & Gamble, as a master brand, executes this strategy with aplomb. It sells a number of domestic brands that appeal to different Mum’s at different stages of their life. This strategy was reinforced by their Olympic campaign as proud sponsors of Mums which had strong caring and paternal undertones.

Dove is another powerful brand that understands the importance of alignment and balance. They have taken a feminine and gentle brand into the male market by tapping into emotions of love, security and being comfortable in your own skin. Appealing personality traits?

Dove. A canny brands that transcends segments.

Dove. A canny brand whose appeal transcends segments by tapping into human truths.

If the target segments’ emotional connection is too distant from the core brand personality creating sub brands e.g. BMW 1 Series or new brands e.g. Toyota and Lexus may be the option. Interestingly this may lie at the heart of Apple’s issues. Does the cool California Kid really want the same brand as the Dancing Dad? You can’t be all things to all people and so alignment and balance are key.

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Do you have any other examples of brands’ whose appeal has been carefully crafted so it is attractive to different segments? Be great to hear from you.


2 responses to “How can one brand appeal to different segments?

  1. I am not sure why this has to be so complicated. Consumers buy brands because they address the consumers’ goals. These are typically higher-level emotional goals and often reside in the nonconscious mind. The marketer’s challenge is to convince the consumer that her brand can satisfy a goal more effectively than an alternative brand (or activity, experience, etc). Goals are typically shared across demographic, socioeconomic and psychographic segments (although there are likely to be some segments that have a higher incidence of sharing a particular goal). Dove is in fact a great example – the goal it addresses (not hard to work out which one) is not shared widely in by Chinese or Russian consumers – and Dove’s strategy (I understand – but have not been able to validate this) failed in these markets.
    This is why brand vision archetypes are useful – they allow the marketer to position a brand in a way that is readily understood, which makes it more likely for a brand code to develop.
    Long-term, however, products of the nature you are referring to are typically bought habitually, which means there is no cognitive processing but a trigger that leads to the repeat purchase (typically the packaging on the supermarket shelf).
    There are buckets of research that demonstrate that purchases are driven by goals. And this means that an alignment of brand personality with the consumer’s personality is typically not the critically important issue. For example, an Adventurer brand does not only appeal to adventurers., but also to those who would like to be an adventurer and, typically the largest target group – those who like to observe adventurers (they watch adventure movies, are passive spectators at adventure sports, etc…).
    I better stop waffling on – I have a plane to catch and will be away for the next four weeks – but hopefully these comments will help to get a discussion going. I know there are a number of highly qualified members in this group and hopefully they will engage – may be a little discussion on neuroscience based marketing strategies vs traditional strategies – a worthwhile undertaking as in both approaches brand vision archetypes can contribute in a highly useful way – but at the same time in different ways…
    Signing off until July! Peter

    • Hi Peter,

      Great points. Thanks for taking the time out to comment. Apologies if the explanation felt complicated. I was trying to keep it simple!

      I agree goals are important. I guess the language I’d use tunes into the “jobs customers are trying to get done”. The brand proposition then helps the target customer (or stakeholder for that matter) get that job done (check out Steve Wunker’s great book on this).

      Goals can be quite abstract so I tend to find asking the simple question of “what jobs do you need to get done in your life?” helps overcome this issue. It also helps get around the terribly rhetorical question of “would you use this product?, when it’s a new concept most customers will struggle to grasp. Similarly, if the segmentation / profiling is deep enough segment-specific goals can be unearthed. For example, we’ve worked with a bank where the student segment goals (“jobs” they’re trying to get done) are different to those of the first time Father. Subsequent brand propositions are built around those jobs.

      With regards to the Adventurer brand I take your point but for me this relates to actual, ideal, ideal social self etc. Using your example, this consumer is aligning their ideal self with the Adventurer brand. It’s who they want to be – ideally. Jack Daniels is doing something similar in China. They’re carving out a place in consumers’ minds where JD is an international / cosmopolitan and aspirational drink. All brand related imagery re-enforces this. The Shanghai high rollers love this positioning because JD becomes an expressive device for a community (dare I say “tribe”) they want to belong to i.e. the transnational, young cool urbanites that you’ll see in every chic city bar from Shanghai to Sydney. In this case JD are tapping into the ideal social self.

      Completely agree that an involved discussion around neuroscience would be valuable. That’s why any segmentation should ask customers about their feelings and a brand. This delves into the limbic system which (as I’m sure you know) plays a very large part in humans’ decision-making processes.

      Once again, thanks for reaching out Peter. Great insight. Have a good flight and stay in touch.

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