I was recently walking around downtown Ottawa, Canada competing with groups of tourists for a piece of the sidewalk. There were photographers snapping photos of the Parliament buildings, couples walking along the canal, tour groups of international visitors marvelling at the clean streets, and many boisterous school groups just happy to be out of the classroom. One school group of teenagers included a boy wearing a Winnipeg Jets shirt.

This had me think they must be from my hometown. But as they approached I grew more confused as I spotted various logos on their shirts and hoodies. There was the State of Tennessee, Volcom, the London Underground, Lacoste, Mexico, Burberry, Ohio State Buckeyes, American Eagle, Barcelona, Vail, and the US Army.

32-41994-YMy original thought that they were from Winnipeg was challenged prompting me to recognize how quickly we label and assume. These kids could have been from anywhere. And that is why it is so important for marketers to recommit to the art and science of segmentation.

I am amazed how many of my clients that have little time for conversations regarding segmentation. This is because they are largely smitten with social media. They have not learned that social media has over promised on its ability to reach the most desired audiences. The reason being most companies are treating social media as a broadcast media totally defeating its intended purpose.

Brands are supposed to be creating conversations on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and others but instead they use this media like they are in charge of programming at NBC in 1974. It is all broadcasting. Instead of inviting consumers in brands are pummelling them with more and more information.

The answer is to identify a brand’s most desirable customers and find out where and how they like to consume communications. This will identify the most effective and efficient messages and mediums. An HBR blog, A New Framework for Customer Segmentation by Judy Bayer and Marie Taillard recommends a three-step approach…

Step #1: Identify the contexts in which customers are using the company’s products.
Step #2: Combine information about transactions and customer behaviour in the contexts to describe each of the jobs to be done.
Step #3: Map individual customers to jobs, using the data.

The authors advocate this framework because “This type of of segmentation is more important than ever as technologically empowered customers have more choice and the ability to craft their own solutions.”

That may be true and their approach may have merit but my sole point is segmentation is a conversation marketers need to have now more than ever. Otherwise brands run the risk of thinking of their customers as simplified stereotypes.