Segmentation of the Advertising Audience Essay

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Organizations communicate core messages to different types of audiences (target groups) that they select out of a list of possible audience segments or profiles, defined according to a number of segmentation criteria. On the basis of this segmentation, audience profile selection, and positioning decision, organizations will define communication objectives and messages and build a communication plan.

Communication by organizations is targeted at different types of audiences. Marketing communication is all commercially relevant communication directed at customers and potential customers with the intention of selling products in the short or long term. Corporate communication is all communication by organizations the objective of which is to establish and/or maintain a good corporate identity, corporate image, and reputation, and build good will with various stakeholders or publics.

Markets can be divided into geographical segments such as continents, countries, regions, neighborhoods or cultures. Consumer needs, wants, and reactions to marketing efforts often differ between these geographical or cultural segments, and therefore may require a different communication approach. Demographic segmentation divides the market on the basis of sex, age, income, race, education, and profession. Consumer markets can also be targeted on the basis of household life-cycle criteria such as marital and occupational status and the age of children. Social stratification is a permanent and ordered division of society based on criteria such as education, profession, income, and status.

Lifestyle measurement is based on the activities, interests, and opinions of consumers. Activities include how people spend their money and time, i.e., work, leisure, product use, shopping behavior, etc. Interests can be in fashion, housing, food, cars, culture, and so on. Personality traits are relatively stable characteristics of individuals that guide their specific behavior. For instance, a person can be extravert or introvert, sensation-seeking or not, high or low affect-intense, or have a low or high need for knowledge.

Organizations can divide their consumers with reference to product- or brand-related aspects. Consumers can be segmented on the basis of the occasion on which they use a product or brand or on the basis of their usage status: nonuser, potential user, first-time user, regular user, or ex-user. Especially for direct marketing purposes (direct mailing, telemarketing, etc.), customers can also be divided on the basis of their buying history, i.e., the recency and frequency of their purchases and the amounts they have spent buying products from the company. Markets can often be segmented on the basis of specific benefits that consumers prefer or are looking for.

On the basis of individual and relevant segmentation variables, segmentation profiles are defined that are combinations of these criteria. For instance, a segment may be defined as ‘all middleclass men between 20 and 30 years old that are heavy users of our product and price-sensitive.’ Companies will define several of these profiles and select a number of them as target groups for their marketing communication campaigns.

Organizations do not only sell to individual end consumers. Often, marketing communication is directed at organizations or companies (business-to-business marketing). Target segments can be based on the type of organization, organizational characteristics, buying roles of individuals within that organization, and the purchase situation. Corporate communication is aimed at correctly communicating the corporate identity and strategy and at developing and maintaining a good image, reputation, and good will with various stakeholders or publics. Most organizations have multiple stakeholders, such as shareholders, employees, labor unions, governments, suppliers, distributors, banks, pressure groups, competitors, media, and so forth. Corporate communication campaigns aimed at these stakeholders use various tools, such as  public relations, corporate advertising, annual reports, press releases, and internal communication tools (e.g., newsletters, presentations, mailings, bulletin boards) to convey the appropriate message to these various publics.


  1. Coe, J. M. (2003). The fundamentals of business-to-business sales and marketing. New York: McGraw Hill.
  2. De Pelsmacker, P., Geuens, M., & Van den Bergh, J. (2007). Marketing communications: A European perspective. Harlow: Financial Times and Prentice Hall.
  3. Dibb, S. & Simkin, L. (2008). Market segmentation success. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.
  4. Kitchen, P. & De Pelsmacker, P. (2005). Integrated marketing communication: A primer. London: Routledge.
  5. McDonald, M. & Dunbar, I. (2004). Market segmentation: How to do it, how to profit from it. Oxford: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.
  6. Nelson-Field, K. & Riebe, E. (2011). The impact of media fragmentation on audience targeting: An empirical generalisation approach. Journal of Marketing Communications, 17(1), 51–67.

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