Understanding your publics is key to any campaign, and through segmentation, a practitioner can further understand who their messages will reach and how they will react.
Geodemographic segmentation assumes that the differences within any group are significantly less than differences between groups; individuals are grouped according to where they live and display characteristics to those within their neighbourhood or locality.
In the UK, there are, in particular, two popular tools used for geodemographic segmentation, ACORN and MOSAIC.
ACORN stands for A Classification of Residential Neighbourhoods, and is the leading tool for identifying the UK population's demand for products and services. It categorises postcodes using over 125 demographic statistics.
Mosaic is owned by Experian, the credit report agency, and classifies the UK population into 15 main socio-economic groups; it bases its results on the predication that the world's cities share common patterns of residential segregation.
Through understanding consumer behaviour and segmenting customers accordingly, a practitioner can target and manage profitable relationships, ensuring a successful campaign and ROI. Such segmentation will also allow practitioners to identify and manage risk, an important consideration for any 21st century company. The tools will also identify investment opportunities for strategically responsible investors.
A rise in stakeholder activism and consumer generated content - social media - means a practitioner must also consider another form of segmentation - self-selecting publics. This is based on uses and gratification theory which assumes that people make highly intelligent choices about which messages require their attention and fulfil their needs. When passive consumption through watching TV was the norm, there was no alternative to dealing with PR and marketing; practitioners and marketers were able to execute campaigns relatively unchallenged because the channels didn't exist for individuals to say otherwise. The situation has reversed irrevocably, and as a result, consumers not only contribute to conversations but quite often run them. Today's consumer can choose what to be influenced by and, through online mediums, can have a range of different 'selves'. This provides a challenge for the practitioner, as segments 'cross-over' and the consumer ultimately chooses in which segment they belong. Practitioners must respond by remembering that humans are deeply social beings, and the corporate voice is no longer enough. Building and sustaining relationships is key, and that's where tools such as MOSAIC and ACORN come in handy.