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Greater insight: Spot the demand space to find your path to growth

Segmentation is no longer enough to get under the skin of your audience. The "super-consumers" of today are a more complex proposition, and brands need consumer-led demand frameworks to understand them.

There’s a lot for agencies and marketers to appreciate in Mad Men: the glamour, the style and, let’s be honest, the simplicity of selling stuff to consumers.

It used to be the case that if your product was a habitual purchase, you simply triggered trial by telling consumers that yours satisfied their need better than others on the shelf. So, this detergent got clothes whiter, that toilet roll became softer and those mints mintier. And segmentation of the market involved looking at the needs for each occasion, irrespective of who you were talking to. So soft drinks were segmented based on refreshment, hydration or energy; chewing gum on the basis of freshness, flavour-hit or boredom relief.

Similarly, if your product had a higher price tag than others in its category, the trick was to tell consumers what it would say about them, how it would make them better people – or at least, appear so. An Amex card oozed wealth and prestige, an Apple Mac shouted creativity, and rolling up in a Mini Cooper was only for the positively zany.

Segmentation was used to delve deeper into the lives of your audience, looking at their attitudes, or life-stage, or any other key proxy for who they were, and to understand how what they purchased needed to reinforce, change or improve who they were.

Then there was "Life before digital". Restricted media choices meant that people watched the same four or five TV channels, listened to the same commercial radio stations and read the same newspapers.
Media buying was a simpler art, although, arguably, more cluttered: the next big thing from Mattel hooked kids on Saturday mornings in between their TV programmes. Carling ads tempted guys in breaks around live football matches, while girls hummed the Body­form tune in between segments of Blind Date.

Of course, consumers were never actually this one-dimensional; they were just restricted to the traditional shopping and media channels that were available to them.

Reliance on stereotypes in isolation is not enough. Today, consumers are super-consumers: informed, opinionated and connected. They expect brands to be more ethical, more accessible and more flexible than ever.

Leading global businesses are responding to these demands with vitamin water, lactose-free milk, electric cars, mobile check-in, even electronic cigarettes. But one man’s indulgence is another man’s health. And sometimes, it’s the same man.

In fact, getting to the nub of how to find where growth lies and achieve your business’ growth ambitions relies on knowing how different types of people satisfy different types of needs on different types of occasions – or, put simply, a demand space that clearly defines your market and shows the opportunities for you to harness and grow, as well as how.

Segmentation studies don’t help you plan your world beyond the obvious or help you manage the complex world you are faced with. Here’s why – and here’s what you can do about it.

Take beer as an example. Beer is a category where a person’s needs can change several times in one day. A "wind-down" occasion for a group of students may well be a higher-energy experience than a "wind-up" occasion for a mature couple. So, if your brand portfolio is only targeting one need or the other, it could be missing a trick. Assess which parts require investment and which may need to be culled.

Indeed, taking the time to truly understand how people and needs interact and creating a map of future-proofed demand spaces will deliver a demand-led growth plan that has more chance to inspire and succeed. It’s an approach that will enable you to establish intuitive and simple (but not simplistic) consumer-led demand frame­works, which get you under the skin of today’s complex super-consumers to help your brands grow effectively and sustainably.

So ask yourself these questions: "Who doesn’t buy us today who might in the near future?" and "What if we became indispensable for those times when people buy us or need us most?" Because understanding the demand spaces in your market will enable you to get ahead of the game.

Nic Bulois is quantitative director at Added Value

Personal philosophy
I work on the basis of discovery, experience and exploration.
My motto is: "The day is what it is; make it the best it can possibly be."
My most bizarre stat
Humans share 50% of their DNA with a banana… fact.
If I could ask one question of the universe, it would be
Can you delay the end as much as possible, please?
I get my best insight from
throwing myself down a mountain on a bike or skis, switching off the rational side and focusing on the moment – brain works in the back­ground and comes up with best insights when switched back on.
The most recent insight I’ve imparted
Humans share 50% of their DNA with a banana. Fact.


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