Segmentation Bias – Differences vs. Similarities

Looking for Differences

Conjoint analysis and other segmentation models show us how consumer groups talk about their preferences. But marketing by slices has limitations. Looking at consumers as uniquely dissimilar, while overlooking powerful similarities, is a  habit that denies real world buying behavior.

Segmentation isn’t efficient, if it’s micro segmentation. Twenty segments for one SKU provides no scale. Even if we focus on 2-6 segments and don’t see commonality between them, our marketing will lack connection to deeper consumer desires. Segmentation that looks impressive, isn’t the same as marketing that inspires buyers.


One answer is JTBD theory. The goal is to understand the context of the consumer’s task or “job.” This approach is more likely to go across multiple segments and account for contextual differences. However, most JTBD practitioners are process oriented and have a limited understanding of human behavior.

Behavioral Economics

JTBD needs a helper. Behavioral Economics identifies primal emotional and unconscious biases as being the same across most people, then expressed differently based on the context. When we combine JTBD and Behavioral Economics, we discover segments that are defined by similarities as well as differences.

Different And Similar: Unbias Ourselves

Marketers are attracted to what is different. The reason is completely understandable, because the human brain is a comparing machine. It sees differences first and notices them most. If things look similar, no worries, but as soon as we notice differences, the mind suddenly experiences a type of alert system. “Oh-O, there’s something different here, need to pay attention, it might be dangerous!” This is what cognitive psychologists call a bias. Biases lead us to prefer one way of thinking over another. Things get out of balance. Market growth suffers.

Marketers need to address the differences between segments, but not at the expense of powerful common human drivers. For example, for years, marketers have treated Millennials  as if they were entirely different from previous generations. They are  different…and the same. Let’s notice the bias and get back in balance.

The Whole Mind, Not a Fraction

Within a customer’s life-context (sometimes called occasions or jobs), humans are surprisingly similar if we see the whole mind & heart of our customers. The whole mind & heart has three parts: rational, emotional and unconscious. Unveiling the whole mind, we can simplify for targeted, efficient communications, to inspire consumer preference and buying behavior.

Clevenger Associates reveals the Whole Mind of the consumer.