Demand mapping and the art of customer attitude profiling

Researchers have developed ways of visually representing customer preferences, and the technique can help target marketing campaigns.

Broadcaster ITV has its problems, but how well they are addressed may well depend on work currently being done by director of marketing and commercial strategy Clare Salmon.

Salmon has been “demand mapping” TV audiences – delineating various groups of viewers by factors such as whether they are addicted to or anti-TV, keen on new technologies such as the internet and set top boxes, their viewing habits (“flick and dip” or “disciplined”) and so on.

Her research has revealed six distinctive segments. They include the likes of pro-technology but anti-TV “plugged in achievers” (who account for 14% of the population), anti-technology, anti-TV “cultural connoisseurs” (12%), TV loving trend followers (20%), home-loving, anti-technology “TV addicts” (13%) and the list goes on. By overlaying her own proprietary research with BARB and other data she has developed not only a picture of their TV preferences, but their lifestyles, incomes and so on.

The result underlines the challenge now facing ITV (hardly any programmes appeal to all segments across the board) while also opening up new opportunities. ITV now knows much better what sorts of programmes to broadcast and what sort of marketing initiatives it needs to attract viewers to these programmes, to get the mix of audience its advertisers are looking for. Even if absolute audience figures don’t grow dramatically, the value of these audiences could.

Segmenting target markets by attitude as well as demographics is hardly new, of course. But what’s exciting is our growing ability to fuse attitudinal understanding with hard data to get the best of both worlds.

Strategy consultants Roland Berger has developed a similar approach. They started their research from an unusual place. Instead of asking consumers about things that brand managers fret about (like product usage and brand associations), they focused on what really matters to individuals in their daily lives, regardless of their brand preferences.

In an enormous exercise, they analysed open-ended conversations with thousands of different individuals to identify common themes which they turned into a bank of attitudinal statements. Having tested it in 70,000 surveys across 16 countries for ambiguities, omissions and overlaps, they claim they can generate a good picture of an individual’s outlook on life: the core values they hold dear.

The statements themselves are pretty simple and straightforward, like “the best experiences are those you have with friends or family”; “I often do things on the spur of the moment” or “I am most annoyed by busy and hectic environments”. People tend to embrace or reject them in similar clusters, leading the consultants to suggest that there are 19 core values commonly held across Europe.

The values cover a vast territory. They include “New & Cool” (adrenalin-seeking, rule flouting, rebellious pushing of the limits), “Clanning” (searching for warmth, friendship, belonging and team spirit), “Personal Efficiency” (making best use of one’s time, performance focused), “Proven” (favouring authority, experience, reliability, tradition), “Purism” (seeking simplicity, understatement, reducing things to their essentials), and so on.

Because every individual embraces or rejects each of these values to a different degree, and because the research is made up of a bank of many “yes or no” answers, it is possible to use statistical pyrotechnics (multi-dimensional scaling analysis) to create a “values profile” of each individual – and to depict this profile visually.

Figure one shows an example of two very different individuals, Dr Hans Petersen and “Mike”. The blue areas show values that the individual positively embraces, compared to the other individuals in the sample. The more contour lines it shows, the more strongly committed the individual is, with each contour line representing a degree of statistical significance. The red areas highlight values that the individual positively rejects. A white area shows that when it comes to these values the individual is perfectly representative of the sample – he or she doesn’t stand out as caring more or less than the people he is being compared with.

Both Hans and Mike are positively attracted to the value “24/7 Pro-Tech” – which means they are keen on the latest technology and scientific innovation, want quick and efficient access to information, and favour cold transactions. But the similarities end there. For Hans, things like “Quality and Service” are important, as is concern for the environment. He’s turned off by “Thrill & Fun” and values such as “Carefree”, “Vitality” and “Passion”. Mike, on the other hand, lives for these values while keeping a sharp eye out for best value. He’s positively irritated by altruistic concerns for fairness and the environment, and for boring, traditional priorities such as quality and service.

Along with the core values research, Roland Berger also conducts usual-suspect lifestyle, demographic and brand preference data. The individual profiles can then be aggregated to create profiles of brand buyers versus non-buyers, category users versus non-category users, different social groups, and so on – once the initial research is done, the data can be sliced and diced at will.

Figure two shows the values profiles of BMW buyers and Aldi shoppers in Germany, for example. They could hardly be more different.

A new book (that I must admit to have an interest in) describes the many ways this value profiling can be used to align a brand’s emotional and functional propositions to target markets (in a similar way to the ITV example), to sort out messy brand architectures, identify innovation opportunities, manage agency creative, and so on.

It’s also intriguing to see how the value profiles of brand users differ across countries. Whether in Europe or China, for example, Nike buyers embrace common core values such as “New & Cool” and “24/7 Pro-Tech”. They also reject other values representing as purism and tranquility. However, there are subtle differences. While European Nike buyers embrace the values of “Carefree” (light hearted optimism, spontaneity, playfulness), Chinese Nike buyers positively reject them: carefree communications could work well in Europe but bomb in China.

Marketers have always stressed the need to offer both functional and emotional value. Both are expressions of underlying values. Wouldn’t it be nice if, at last, we found some robust ways of uniting these two poles in a seamless data-driven, practical manner?

Alan Mitchell, www.alanmitchell.biz
Moment of Truth: Redefining the CEO’s Brand Management Agenda, by Andreas Bauer, Björn Bloching, Kai Howadlt and Alan Mitchell, Palgrave Macmillan

Mood maps: Figure one (top) shows the attitude of individuals – Dr Hans Petersen and ’Mike’, figure two (bottom) profiles the values of BMW abd Aldi customers.

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