I recently developed a hypothesis on why old school behavioral segmentation works as well as a 1978 Lada or a vintage Apple Newton device. Traditional segmentation assumes that consumers behave and purchase consistently (have you ever tried driving a Communist era vehicle?) or that humans can be placed in little squares and be properly and constantly understood (have you ever tried the handwriting recognition software on a Newton?). While consumption, usage and desired benefit patterns used to be effective ways to cluster people, ‘consistent inconsistency’ is becoming the new normal. For marketers it is like watching a boxer fight themselves in special effects movie.
The Whole Health Hacker
In the left corner we have the persona I will call the Whole Health Hacker (WHH), a lover of hyper fresh wheatgrass shots extracted with a Norwalk Juicer from 12-day-old baby wheat grown outside the lovely town of Chlorophyll Springs California. They seek an optimized mental, physical and spiritual self. An aficionado of weekly vitamin injections administered at a naturopathic spa located in a refurbished greenhouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A fan of macrobiotic food produced according to the strict standards of the Kushi Institute. The WHH only drinks spring water delivered in UV protected glass canisters from a supplier deep in the Idaho countryside or derived from a Kagen water atomizer installed in their home water room.
The health hacker prefers wearing clothing made from organic sustainable bamboo and shoes rounded on the sole to achieve the ultimate gait. Hiking in the foothills outside Tucson Arizona, they pick fresh aloe for use in their homemade colonic tonic. They use Weleda cosmetics made in Germany from certified biodynamic ingredients and enjoy smoothies made from acai, gogi, maca, and other super fruits. They fashionably wear a Fitbit device as a means of self-reflection with the quantified self.
The Whole Health Hacker enjoys yoga retreats at the Kripalu Health Institute in the Berkshires and week-long juice fasting regimens at the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida. A strong believer in the healing power of homeopathy, Chinese medicine, ayurveda and holistic nutrition, the WHH is on a constant journey to tweak, optimize and master their multidimensional well-being.
At home, the Whole Health Hacker monitors air quality for mold, pathogens, and contaminants. They recently installed geothermal heating with the goal of moving off the grid. Solar energy derived from solar panels ethically manufactured at a refurbished factory in downtown Detroit support this now reachable goal.
The Culturally Curious Connoisseur
In the right corner we have a persona I will call the Culturally Curious Connoisseur (CCS). A lover of small batch natural wines made in Santa Barbara garages with minimal intervention and no sulphites or filtration, they seek out experiences that provide contrast and curiosity. They wake up to gradual sunshine provided via Philips’ new wirelessly (app) controlled LED light bulbs set to sunrise mode. The day inspirationally starts with some Ashley MacIsaac loudly piping on their home Sonos sound system. A trip to the bathroom might involve a Japanese smart toilet (with heated seat) from Toto, a six head Kohler shower experience and black cherry toothpaste from an ex-pharmaceutical chemist who gave it all up to farm bing cherries outside of Portland.
They might start their day with a breakfast of duck eggs and small batch bourbon infused bacon made from heritage pigs in Tennessee cooked in their burnt orange colored Le Creuset heritage cast-iron pan and served alongside a fresh peach smoothie made with their Vitamix blender. For the CCS, the constant introduction of new technology and gadgetry is part of a full life.
As they head to work they put their new Memoto life blogging camera around their neck to capture and auto-publish every aspect of their day on their wide array of social networks. They head to work on their new KindHuman performance bike and stop for a Hario V60 Fretta ice coffee at their local Blue Bottle Coffee shop. Properly caffeinated on organic Papa New Guinea coffee, they contemplate the issues they are facing in their backyard chicken coop. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all – fresh eggs and raccoons.
Exciting travel might involve some serious eating at small Michelin starred Parisian restaurant called Yam’Tcha that merges French cooking precision with Chinese inspiration and ingredients. Dishes such as langoustine, egg yolk, tomatoes and X.O. sauce or Challans duck (from the Loire region and famous for its well marbled breast) with Szechuan sauce are matched with tea pairings instead of the traditional wine pairings. Every dish is beautifully captured on their Leica M and published on their Pinterest board. On the way home, the Culturally Curious Connoisseur revels in their fortunate upgrade to the lie-flat beds and warm flourless chocolate cakes in Air Canada’s executive first class. While staring at the clouds, they take note of the upcoming consumer flights to space. It would be quite a dream to drink some vintage Dom at 100 km high.
The Muhammad Ali Approach to Segmentation
Now, you might think that these two personas are separate people, with separate mentalities, that live in separate places and want different things, but think again. A person that drinks kale juice and does pilates every morning might be the same person roasting a whole lamb on a spit in their backyard. The same person with a Prada bag might enjoy camping trips to the Adirondacks. Maybe you like Guerlain perfume but clean your house with scent free Ecover products.
While this unexpected divergence is more common among younger humans, it is increasingly becoming the new norm. As a marketer, this makes it incredibly difficult to segment people, let alone understand their needs and behaviors. The way around this conundrum is to practice what I will call The Muhammad Ali approach to segmentation. It involves building a two-sided persona with two names, a positive side and a dark side, a public and a private, an emotional and a functional. This practice requires deeper ethnographic study and an acknowledgment of surprisingly diverging lifestyles.
This article appears in MISC Winter 2014, The Balance Issue