Lifestyle Matters Everywhere

Marketers Need to Stop Targeting Consumers by Country and Instead Target Based on Habits, Likes, Dislikes

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Charles R. Taylor
Charles R. Taylor
Over the past several decades, it has become clear that around the world, consumers' habits, likes and dislikes are becoming much more similar. Sushi is becoming a common dinner option for many in Middle America, for example, and one can easily find Chinese and European students wearing Major League Baseball caps on their college campuses. But despite the trend toward a more global consumer, there has been little effective implementation of cross-market segmentation. Instead, marketers continue to demographically segment markets largely on a country-by-country basis, with very little focus on cross-market segmentation.

While there has been periodic talk of a few marketers targeting the "global teen" or "global elite" segments, very little has been discussed on how to identify and target cross-national market segments. The time is now for grouping consumers together -- independently of their home country.
Universal obsession: Remarkably, more than 90% of women in their 20s in Tokyo own a Louis Vuitton.
Universal obsession: Remarkably, more than 90% of women in their 20s in Tokyo own a Louis Vuitton. Credit: Song Qiao

Cross-market segmentation refers to grouping consumers across all markets in which a product is offered, independent of nationality. The growth of the global economy has initiated a market experiencing significant convergence in consumer tastes and preferences in several product categories. Marketers have been aware of this for some time now with respect to luxury goods. As observed by Radha Chadha and Paul Husband in their book, "The Cult of the Luxury Brand," more than half of the world's $80 billion (annual) market comes from Asian consumers. Consumers around the world seek out brands such as Gucci, Ferragamo, Coach, Chanel, Armani, Burberry and Ralph Lauren. Remarkably, more than 90% of women in their 20s in Tokyo own a Louis Vuitton.

Given the striking evidence of a global market particularly in the luxury industry, what do marketers and advertisers selling these types of goods need to do to be competitive?

Transnational preferences
The results of recent studies I have conducted -- in conjunction with Dr. Eunju Ko of Yonsei University in Seoul, among others -- indicate that targeting consumers by lifestyle will provide better results than targeting by country of origin. In our recently published article in International Marketing Review, U.S., Korean and European female consumers' reactions to advertising campaigns run by Chanel in the Asian, European and American editions of Vogue magazine were analyzed. In assessing reactions to the ad campaign, findings proved lifestyle to be a more important segmentation criterion than the consumers' country of origin. In addition to eliciting consumer reactions to the advertisements, the study asked consumers questions about their attitudes, values, buyer behavior and demographics. The study was able to identify four distinct fashion-lifestyle segments of female fashion consumers which cut across cultures: conspicuous consumers, information seekers, sensation seekers and utilitarian consumers.

Charles R. Taylor is the John A. Murphy Professor of Marketing at the Villanova School of Business.
1. The conspicuous fashion consumer (19% of the consumers in the study) holds a strong belief in the value of prestige brands with an upscale image. These women are concerned about social status and value the attention and prestige that associated brands bring. Others' opinions matter considerably to this group. They are clearly less price sensitive, and in many cases, are willing to make sacrifices to own elite brands. For this reason, this group cuts further across income segments than one might expect. An important feature of the conspicuous fashion consumer is the belief that well-known, prestigious global brands are of the highest quality. Moreover, members are largely unwilling to consider investing time in information searches for products they are not familiar with, even if these alternatives might actually be of high quality. How should marketers target this segment? By emphasizing prestige, elegance and status.

2. Information seekers (27%) are women who are willing to put considerable effort into researching fashions by consulting books and magazines. Information seekers are very information-oriented and more open to considering new brands, or brands with which they do not have prior experience, than the conspicuous consumer. Consumers within this segment are very fashion conscious and seek information to keep up with fashion trends. As a result, they show a high level of interest in advertising for fashion products. To reach this segment, marketers should leverage advertising that emphasizes quality and trendiness.

3. Sensation seekers, which accounted for 30% of the sample, clearly value aesthetic elements in clothing. Sensation seekers are especially interested in color coordination and believe they have good taste in choosing clothing products.
Fashion shoppers
are conspicuous consumers who love prestige brands.
are information seekers who spend time researching fashions.
are sensation seekers who value aesthetic elements in clothing.
are utilitarian consumers who are concerned with clothing's comfort and functionality.
They place high priority on aesthetic aspects of clothing -- tastefulness, color, design, coordination -- and weigh this heavily in making purchase decisions. Likewise, they tend to respond to fashions that are eye-catching and think about fashion in a holistic sense. Sensation seekers believe they have an "eye for fashion" and are less influenced by information on trends than the information seekers. Target this segment with ads highlighting coordination.

4. The final segment is utilitarian consumers, which accounted for 25% of consumers in the sample. Women in this segment are primarily concerned with the comfort and functionality of the clothing. Purchasing clothing is viewed as a necessity or chore as opposed to a fun use of leisure time. Utilitarian consumers are very value-oriented and are not prone to making purchases on a whim. Instead, purchases are made based on rational calculations that weigh quality, comfort, functionality and price. Utilitarian consumers are price-conscious, though quality is often important as well. To target, emphasize both the functional aspects of clothing as well as value.

Today and in the future -- in industries where consumer needs are similar, such as women's fashion -- the global consumer should be targeted by considering lifestyle and consumption patterns. While savvy fashion advertisers already are incorporating a significant degree of standardization into their advertising programs to establish brand image, the firms that successfully target the appropriate cross-national segments to whom their brands appeal will develop a sustainable competitive advantage.
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