“Without a clear brand identity, segment marketing is like driving around without a clear destination in mind.”
A store is a place you go to buy stuff, usually out of convenience or habit. In contrast, brands inspire irrational loyalty and yes, even love. How does a company build itself into a brand that people can fall deeply, madly in love with?
The old model says segmentation is the key to business success. This involves strategically dividing your potential customers into groups based on who they are and why/how they’re buying. Segmentation is a fine marketing tactic, but it won’t help build a brand people can wholeheartedly rally behind.
In fact, segmentation can even work against a brand by diluting its identity. In order to build the type of brand that customers can fall in love with, you must first create a detailed picture of your ideal “unicorn” customer.
Let me start with a real-world example of a brand I personally worked with. This company is one of the world’s largest retailers of hookahs and hookah supplies. When I asked them who they thought their ideal customer was, they described an older Middle-Eastern man.
In fact, their ideal customer – the person most likely to bring in the most amount of revenue over time – was a young guy between the ages of 18-28. This consumer wants to bring people together around the hookah. He is a discerning, curious, fun-loving hookah enthusiast who knows that the most memorable and fun hookah experiences start with the right equipment, accessories and shisha tobacco.
He wants to be the life of the hookah party. You can see why he’s the ideal customer.
This example clearly demonstrates how to define this ideal customer. First, start by asking yourself these three questions:
Who is the customer who will be worth the most over the long haul?
Who will be the customer who is the most profitable and delightful to serve?
Who will not only keep buying from you again and again but will recommend you to others?
Then, create an in-depth profile of this customer. Who is the person most highly predictive of your brand’s success? Imagine the ideal customer in excruciating detail: What kind of car does he drive? What clothing does he wear? Every last detail must be worked out in your mind so this person becomes as real as possible.
To help you fill in the details, consider doing the opposite of segmentation. Think about what unites your customers. What creates a singular brand that is for a singular customer archetype?
Benefits of the unicorn customer
So, what are the benefits of identifying your unicorn customer? There a several examples of this – several ways to chart a course to creating opportunities that open the door for your unicorn to step in.
Build a stronger brand identity – If you can clearly define who your biggest brand champion is, you will open more doors than previously imagined. The creative process will become easier, and everything your brand does will be more thoroughly informed by this one anchoring concept. Your brand purpose becomes unified and less fragmented, making it stronger and more appealing to your customers.
Create a brand your team can rally behind and be passionate about it – When you build a brand with a strong identity and purpose, you can recruit people to be part of the team who also feel strongly about the brand purpose. It’s much easier to inspire the team to put in extra work when they feel like the brand is something worth working for. In fact, it starts to feel less like work and more like plain old fun.
Make your brand more human – Thinking about the ideal customer as an actual person will help you think about the brand in more emotional terms. The result is a brand that people can relate to on an emotional level.
Inspire irrational customer loyalty – A strong brand identity makes for a strong company that instills customers with confidence. This means people come back even if they’re dissatisfied simply because they love the brand and they know it will redeem itself.
Help to better inform segmentation – Without a clear brand identity, segment marketing is like driving around without a clear destination in mind. You might find some interesting things along the way, but you’ll waste time and gas, and you’ll probably find yourself getting a bit lost. Build a brand first, and then use segmentation to help spread your awesome brand identity far and wide.
Is segmentation dead?
Segment marketing has its place, and identifying the ideal customer archetype shouldn’t replace segmentation practices. But if your boss has asked you to go out and segment the market, you’re probably putting the cart before the horse.
First, you have to identify your ideal customer. Then you can think about segmentation. Remember, you’re building a brand for one, and segmenting the market to get your actual product or service in front of many.
If you want to make yourself more attractive to the person of your dreams, you don’t start by researching all the people in the world who might find you attractive. You focus on that one person – your ideal mate – and learn everything you can about her. What’s her favorite flower? What TV shows does she like? What does she like to do on Friday nights?
In order to build a brand, you have to approach your customers in a similar way. Learn more about the ideal customer and let those insights inform the brand identity. Segmentation can help in marketing, but it’s not going to help build a brand that customers can fall in love with.
But finding your “unicorn” customer will.