In the past, the goal of marketing was to remain in the center, where most consumers are. Today, the name of the game is individualism, uniqueness, and the attainment of niche consumers, which are becoming increasingly more important economically, due to the ability to purchase many products via the web and the expansion of large businesses, which are able to place their products globally.
Segmentation, or the breaking up of consumer bases, has becoming increasingly more important, as the branding needed to appeal to one demographic differs from the branding needed to appeal to another. Marketers and communications specialists must make sure not to serve steak to vegetarians, especially when there are so many other options for individuals to pursue if they feel ill catered to.
This article will discuss the segmentation of customer bases, and how companies use it to rebrand similar products to different demographics. Two case studies will be used Toyota, a global car conglomerate, and Ray Ban, an internationally recognized accessories line. Both companies specialize in the sale of products with similar functionality, and consequently focus on differentiation by means of public relations initiatives.
Toyota manufactures several car brands including Lexus, Scion, Toyota, and Daihatsu. Each product line has different features, physical characteristics, associated marketing, beginning price points, and other features. By differentiating their products from one another Toyota can appeal to several different demographics with different priorities and increase their total market share in the automobile industry.
Lexus is widely considered Toyota’s most luxurious brand, with its cars featuring additional standard features not found its other models: extra leg room, GPS capabilities, artificial intelligence parking technology, seat warmers, and other features typical of the luxury car class, which includes non-Toyota brands such as Mercedes and BMW. It is also differentiated by a higher starting price, lower sales, and a more exclusive status than Toyota’s other brands.
The difference in the product is reflected in its marketing efforts, which target a more affluent demographic with a focus on “the good life,” or as Brian Bolain, a Lexus Marketing Manager, states “Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci and Lexus all mentioned in the same breath.” Lexus’s demographic in addition to being wealthier is also more consumeristic and less environmentally concerned than the demographics of say the Toyota Prius, which the United States Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board (CARB) rate as among the cleanest vehicles sold in the United States based on smog-forming emissions.
While Toyota differentiates its products by both functionality and branding, Ray Ban differentiates its products by branding alone.
In 2014, Ray Ban initiated eight different campaigns in Asia, marketing eight styles of sunglasses to eight different customer archetypes. The company differentiated by creating eight distinct styles and by branding the different styles as being particularly desirable to different personas. Rather the focus on the functionality of the product, appealing to all consumer of glasses, they focused on character archetypes that characterized the wearers’ of different styles of sunglasses as having different personas. This engaged niche markets, who see themselves not just as consumers of products, but more importantly as consumers of brands and ideologies. Targeting niche markets is nothing new to Ray Ban, which launched the campaigned Never Hide in 2007 and which has since become synonymous with the brand.
According to a press release by Luxottica, Ray Ban’s umbrella corporation, “Real trendsetters, real opinion leaders, real individuals believe the most fashionable thing you can be is yourself; to be authentic, real, bold and stylish. So to reclaim its rightful place as the legitimate leader of sunglasses, Ray-Ban has to only speak and act like their maverick selves.” Such branding is indicative of Ray Ban, which has managed to become one of Luxottica’s most successful glasses lines by identifying segments in their customer base and tailoring their messages accordingly.
In the past the options available to people were more limited those who could not fit the traditional mold of things were often left out in the cold and disadvantaged by their peculiarities. Today, the amount of options available are exponentially greater, and people have taken pride in their differences, wishing to express these differences in everything they do from the books they read, to clothes they wear and the cars they drive. The modern individual is an individual first and they wished to be respected and perceived as such by brands. The more bespoke you can make your public relations efforts, and the more you can communicate the perception of viewing your client as unique the more able you will be to attract niche viewers, who through modernization have become the majority.