A little bit country and a little bit rock and roll

By Brad Bane

- March, 29 2016

I’m going to date myself here with these cultural references, so bear with me. I promise to somehow name-drop Jay Z and Beyoncé in another blog post.

Growing up, the celebrity power couple in my household was actually a brother and sister combo, Donnie and Marie Osmond. The Donnie and Marie show aired from 1975 to 1978, and it was really a pretty typical variety show for the day, with some singing, some dancing, some corny acting. At least that’s what I’ve been told.  Because I really wasn’t paying attention. I was off doing something, uh, cool.

During every show, there was a musical segment that kicked off with Donnie and Marie singing A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock and Roll. I’m sure you can guess the shtick—Marie’s a little bit country, Donnie’s a little bit rock and roll, and it set up what was essentially a dueling musical segment.

The Problem with Segmentation

Somewhere around this time, I decided that I too loved rock and roll. Not because Donnie Osmond told me to, but probably because my parents told me not to. And since that discovery, I’ve devoted a lot of time to listening to rock and roll as loudly as possible, and going to rock concerts, and generally annoying the people around me who, it turns out, don’t love rock and roll. If I were to take part in a segmentation study devoted to music, I’d be classified into the Silver Age segment (to totally cop a Bob Mould song title—and if you say it fast enough it sounds like “silver rage,” which is how I like to see myself).

But here’s the thing…if you totaled up all my music listening over the past [obscenely high number deleted] years, I’m actually only 50% rock & roll. I’m probably an additional 25% country (not the horrible bro-country, think more like Americana Music) with the remainder spread across classical, gospel, pop and electronic.

That in a nutshell is the problem with segmentation—it tends to be overly broad in applying a classification to individuals, and those classifications only work within certain contexts. I’m a little bit rock and roll, and a little bit country, and some other things, too. But it all depends on the situation. It’s also the problem with much of target marketing, which assumes I’m always one thing and not the other.

Moods, Motives and Halverson Group

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review brings us closer to the truth, with the general premise that psychographics are just as important for marketers as demographics. While classifying people according to their attitudes, aspirations and other psychological criteria makes sense, it makes the (in my opinion) mistaken assumption that those criteria are immutable, rather than situational. We all clearly have some elements of our personality that are fixed; it’s just that these elements apply to things like our family values, not our purchase of toothpaste or our decision to shop at a particular grocery chain.

The Halverson Group Jobs to Be Won™ approach holds that segmentation should allow you to upend the rules of your category and motivate more consumers to hire your brand. And the only way to do that is to put people in the right segment at the right time.

We do that by focusing on clustering situations, typically based on the moods and motives people experience within that context, and then overlaying people to understand the proportion of situations that comprise each individual’s repertoire. We’re understanding what can roughly be described as psychographics, but we’re getting them in context.

And context matters for fueling winning strategies.