Market Segmentation and Targeting

Key Terms: undiferentiated marketing, market segmentation, market positioning, micromarketing, market niche strategies, concentrated marketing, family life cycle, psychographics, AIOs, geodemographic segmentation,  benefit segmentation, resonance marketing, microniche, ethnic marketing.

Undifferentiated marketing is using one marketing strategy to go after an entire market, i.e., mass marketing. This does not usually work too well since it is unlikely that every individual will have the same needs. The shampoo that I desire (I am bald) is probably quite different than the shampoo a young woman with a full head of hair wishes to purchase.  Do we all want to drive the same kind of car?   Some of us prefer a sports car and others an SUV.  

Steps in market segmentation:

Step 1: Market segmentation – divide the market into relatively homogeneous segments of customers; each of these groups, to be fully satisfied, needs its own marketing mix or product.

Step 2: Market targeting – In this step, a firm evaluates each of the segments in order to determine which one(s) to enter.

Step 3: Market positioning – A firm has to decide how it wants its brand perceived relative to other brands in the marketplace. This involves creating a distinct image for the brand relative to other brands. For instance, suppose you introduce a new kind of granola bar. You can position it as a good-tasting candy bar, a relatively healthy bar or, possibly, a low-fat ("lite") bar. Similarly, a new brand of cookie could be positioned using health, diet, or good taste. When a college refers to itself as the "poor man’s Harvard" it is also positioning itself.

Some reasons for segmentation:

a. Market segments are generally relatively large, but there is going to be more competition than with a subsegment, i.e., a niche. A relatively small firm should use market segmentation to find a niche in the marketplace. By concentrating its resources on one small segment that is not thoroughly satisfied with the available products, a firm might be able to succeed. It is obviously very difficult for a small firm to fight against a large firm. Imagine the difficulties in developing a new brand of cola and competing against Coke and Pepsi. This would be suicide. The way to succeed is to find a small niche in the marketplace, i.e., niche marketing. This is what Snapple did. Also, Tom’s of Maine toothpaste.

b. A large firm that desires to reach several different target markets and thereby dominate a market has to make sure that the different brands compete with competitors’ brands rather than each other (cannibalization). For instance, Procter and Gamble markets the following soaps: Ivory, Camay, Safeguard, Coast, Zest, and Oil of Olay. Each of these brands has a different target market.

Micromarketing includes individual marketing and local marketing.

Individual marketing, also known as one-to-one marketing, is an example of micromarketing. Today, it is possible for firms to customize products to order. Using computers and the Web, it is possible for firms to manufacture custom-made products. For instance, a company might allow customers to design the bookcase they desire on the Web, i.e., select a color, style, size, etc.

Ways to segment consumer markets:

(1) Geographic segmentation-- by country, by region within the country, by state, by neighborhood, or rural/suburban/urban.

(a) For instance, a firm might market different beers for different regions in the United States -- e.g., South, Northeast, and West.
(b) Or, a firm selling bicycles might sell one bicycle for rural areas (mountain bike) and another kind of bike for urban areas.
(c) Most firms recognize that they have to use segmentation when marketing their products to foreign countries. Marketing strategies that work in the United States may have to be modified for other countries. This will be discussed further in the lecture dealing with international marketing.

(2) Demographic segmentation - demographics refers to physical characteristics of people such as sex, age, ethnicity, income, family size, occupation, education, marital status, social class, and stage of the family life cycle.

Sex: shampoos, hairsprays, deodorants, vitamins, and cigarettes for men and women.

Age: cereals, vitamins, and games (e.g., Scrabble) for young people and older people.

Ethnicity: cosmetics and hairsprays for African-Americans, Asians, and Caucasians; television shows for Caucasians, African-Americans.

Income: luxury cars for high-income individuals; restaurants that cater to high-income and low-income people.

Family Size: condominiums for small families. Indeed, there are a large number of households consisting of one or two people in the United States because of divorce and the large number of singles who choose not to get married.

Occupation: calculators for engineers, accountants, and stockbrokers.

Education: newspapers for different levels of education.

Marital Status: resorts that cater to single people, married couples (Poconos), and families.

Social Class: wine for upper social classes and for lower social classes. Do electricians drink the same wine as lawyers?

Family Life Cycle: 9 stages
Bachelor stage (Single men and women living on their own-- spend on fashion, vacations, and recreation),
Newly married couples (spend on vacations, cars, and clothing)
Full Nest I (youngest child under 6 -- spend on baby food, toys; buy home and furniture)
Full Nest II (youngest child is older than 6 -- spending money on children)
Full Nest III (older children, -- major expense is college; may travel and replace furniture)
Empty Nest I (children have left home; family income at peak -- travel, cruises, vacation)
Empty Nest II (head of household has retired -- may move to warmer climate and purchase a condominium)
Solitary Survivor in Labor Force (travel, vacations, medical expenses)
The Retired Solitary Survivor (medical expenses)

Builders might use family life cycle to segment the market for condominiums. It should be noted that family life cycle is somewhat dated and many people do not fit into any of the categories, e.g., unmarried people living together and gay couples.

Geodemographic segmentation, sometimes called clustering, combines demographics (age, education, ethnicity, family life cycle,  housing type, income, occupation, etc.), lifestyles, and geography.  You probably noticed that the people in your neighborhood are somewhat similar to you. There is an adage:  "birds of a feather flock together" and that seems to be true of people living in the same geographic areas.  Firms such as Claritas (they call this PRIZM) create market segments or clusters consisting of similar individuals.  Claritas has segmented the US into 62 clusters.  These include:

01 Blue Blood Estates: Elite Super Rich Families
02 Winner’s Circle: Executive Suburban Families
03 Executive Suites: Upscale White-Collar Couples
04 Pools & Patios: Established Empty Nesters
05 Kids & Cul-de-Sacs: Upscale Suburban Families

11 Second City Elite: Upscale Executive Families
12 Upward Bound: Young Upscale White-Collar Families
13 Gray Power: Affluent Retirees in Sunbelt Cities

45 Single City Blues: Ethnically-Mixed Urban Singles
46 Hispanic Mix: Urban Hispanic Singles & Families
47 Inner Cities: Inner City, Solo-Parent Families

If you want to see the rest, go to:

A marketer can determine the types of people that live in various zip codes, neighborhoods, and even blocks.  Suppose you want to market a product to Hispanics.  You can use the Claritas PRIZM service and find out which zip codes consist of cluster 46 ("Hispanic Mix").  

(3) Lifestyle segmentation, which is sometimes called psychographics. This is measured by studying the activities, interests, and opinions (AIOs) of customers. It considers how people spend their leisure-- what do we do with our time?  What kind of hobbies do you have?  Are you more likely to spend your free time watching television, reading a book, at a party, or knitting?  Are you more likely to be engaged in gardening or hunting?   What is important to you (interests)?  How do you see the world (opinions)?  Some examples of lifestyle traits include: homebody, arts enthusiast, community minded, and fashion conscious. Lifestyle is thus a person's way of living. Knowing the psychographics of one’s customers enables a firm to create the correct advertising message. Suppose you determine that the typical drinker of your brand of beer loves the outdoors, likes to hunt and fish, enjoys bowling with the boys, reads magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse, and is not interested in religion. How successful would an ad be if it showed a group of nuns enjoying your beer after teaching Sunday school? Please note that extrovert (outgoing), introvert, compulsive, etc. are examples of personality traits; they are not psychographic traits. Psychographics deals with life style and personality deals with the qualities/traits that are peculiar to a particular individual.  Commercials showing close-knit, happy families enjoying themselves at Pizza Hut after a fun day at the beach are using lifestyle segmentation.  As noted above, lifestyle deals with how people spend their leisure time.  

The SRI Company has developed a questionnaire that is used for psychographic segmentation called VALS (Values and Lifestyles). Take a few minutes, fill out their survey. Go to the SRI website at    Click on VALS Survey.  Here are a sample of some of the questions in the VALS survey  -- first 5 questions; the last 4 are demographic questions (Sex, Age, Education, and household income).  

1. I am often interested in theories.
Mostly disagree   Somewhat disagree   Somewhat agree   Mostly agree  

2. I like outrageous people and things.
Mostly disagree   Somewhat disagree   Somewhat agree   Mostly agree  

3. I like a lot of variety in my life.
Mostly disagree   Somewhat disagree   Somewhat agree   Mostly agree  

4. I love to make things I can use everyday.
Mostly disagree   Somewhat disagree   Somewhat agree   Mostly agree  

5. I follow the latest trends and fashions.
Mostly disagree   Somewhat disagree   Somewhat agree   Mostly agree  

(4) Behavioral segmentation - Usage rate, occasions, user status, loyalty rate, and benefit segmentation.
Usage rate:  heavy, medium, light, and nonusers of a product.  For instance, some people drink one cup of coffee per day (light user) while others drink 6 or more cups per day (heavy users).  Some copying machines are targeted to the light users of copying machines--small offices. In fact, a very successful product is the multifunction machine that copies, faxes, scans, and prints.  It is perfect for the small office that does a little of each.  Many beers are targeted to men who are between 18 and 30-years since they are the heavy users and drink the most beer.  Women drink very little beer and generally are non-users or light users of beer.  

Occasion segmentation:  Some products or services are seen as being appropriate for a particular situation or occasion.  Take orange juice as an example.  Most of us think of it as a product that is mainly a breakfast drink.  This limits the market for this product.  Indeed, orange growers are trying to convince the public that orange juice is a beverage for any occasion.  How about a pizza and orange juice for lunch?  Or, hamburger and orange juice for dinner?  If the orange growers are successful in this campaign, they can greatly expand the market for orange juice.  Interestingly, Pepsi at one time was trying to market a cola product for breakfast (I think the name of the beverage they were testing was Pepsi AM).  This makes sense since many people eat breakfast at a fast food restaurant such as McDonald's or Burger King. However, most people do not think cola beverages make sense for breakfast and the product did not succeed. 

The major method employed to segment markets is benefit segmentation. To use this method, you have to determine the benefits sought by customers when buying the generic product. For instance, some benefits desired when purchasing shampoo include, dandruff prevention, making hair smell nice, making hair soft and manageable, inexpensive, preventing baldness, being mild and gentle, restoring luster, etc. The reason that benefit segmentation is so popular is because it is the method that is the most consistent with the marketing concept.  If you see a commercial that tells you how a particular brand of toothpaste will eliminate cavities, reduce plaque,  and strengthen your gums, the advertiser is probably using a segmentation strategy based on benefits sought.

How would you segment the market for vitamins? Some possibilities:
By sex: vitamins for men and for women. Women need more iron and calcium than men.
By age: older people have different needs than children. You might need several different products: for babies, growing children, teens, adults, and senior citizens.

How would you segment the market for films? Some possibilities:

By sex: films aimed at women. Some studios making films are trying to attract women—a major target. Action films are made that are women-friendly. This means less violence and strong female stars in major roles (remember Sigourney Weaver in the Alien films).
By age: movies for children and movies for adults.

How would you segment the market for cruises? Some possibilities:
By stage in the family life cycle: You might market cruises for empty nesters (middle-aged couples whose children have moved out), for newlyweds, and for bachelors (cruises aimed at singles). Club Med has vacations for couples, families, and singles.

A builder of condominiums might segment the market for homes by stage in the family life cycle:
Very small apartments with tiny kitchens for singles. You might have a swimming pool and some tennis courts. In fact, these are the kind of apartments being built in areas filled with unmarried people.  Larger apartments with three or four bedroom for full nesters. Small apartments with ramps for older empty-nesters. Instead of tennis courts, shuffle board and bingo rooms.

Now that you know something about market segmentation, let us look at some interesting things that are happening today.  There was a fascinating article in The New York Times (May 20, 2004; "In the Era of Cheap DVD's, Anyone can be a Producer" by Peter Wayner, p. G1).  Wayner's article indicates that "even the most specialized video can find a niche audience, thanks to easy-to-duplicate discs and the U.S. mail."   One university sells DVD's of its college football games to fans around the country.  Clearly, this DVD is too specialized to get distribution in stores. A poetry group sells a DVD containing poems for $20 as part of a subscription series.  Primedia Workplace Learning sells programs of continuing education for firefighters and police officers on DVD.  There are firms (e.g., CustomFlix) that are similar to custom book publishers that will duplicate DVDs and help market them for a fee.  This is all possible because DVDs cost less than one dollar to make and can be mailed to customers for the price of one stamp. 


Films with Christian Values

Making films that are targeted to those with Christian values (see article by Sharon Waxman "Fox Unveils a Division for Religious-Oriented Films," NY Times, September 20, 2006, pp. E1, E8).

Fox has a new division, FoxFaith, that will distribute religious-oriented films to the vast Christian market.  Many of these films will not not be released in theaters but will go straight to DVD.  Fox has already had some success selling films with Christian themes on DVD.  This has been going on in the music business for quite a while-- music with Christian themes. The films will "tap into Christian values"; it is believed that this market is underserved and growing.  The budget for the films will be $3 - $20 million. Walt Disney went after the Christian market with "The Chronicles of Narnia:  The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" and took in $774 million worldwide.  A number of Christian-oriented films were made in the last several years and have been quite successful despite poor production quality and amateurish acting.  Jeff Yordy, a marketing executive at Fox stated:  "That's the mission:  quality, story-driven entertainment that meshes with the values of the target audience.  But it's entertainment first.  We are not in the business of proselytizing." Fox built a network with 90,000 Christian congregations; they will receive promotional materials about films.  This is a great way to generate word of mouth.


Ethnic Marketing:  Some examples.

(see article by Stuart Elliott in NY Times, July 7, 2006, C7--"Manischewitz Wants to Move to a Mainstream Aisle")

The major marketer of kosher products is Manischewitz (owned by R.A.B. Holdings).  According to Elliott, Americans spend more than $50 Billion per year on kosher food; only 20% of kosher food buyers are the traditional Jewish consumer who is concerned about dietary laws. The others purchase it because of the belief that kosher products are purer and of better quality than nonkosher products.   Manischewitz is trying to move the product from the ethnic aisle to mainstream aisle.  This is not easy since Manischewitz does not want to lose its traditional customer. 

Hebrew National uses this belief regarding kosher products in their ads.  One ad for Hebrew National hot dogs targeted to mothers positions the franks as being more nutritious-- "We answer to a higher authority." Another ad for Morton Coarse Kosher Salt uses the line-- "It's the secret ingredient chefs have always used to make their dishes gourmet.  Morton Coarse Kosher Salt.  Now you know."

General Electric sells ovens that have a feature that is important for Orthodox Jews that do not turn ovens on or off on the Sabbath.  They call it the Sabbath mode feature. The ovens have special programming that can be set before the Sabbath begins. GE also makes ranges with a "fifth burner" that looks like a long griddle and can be used by Hispanics to make quesadillas (it is also good for pancakes).


Resonance Marketing and Hyperdifferentiation:
(see article by Eric K. Clemons and Rick Spitler, "The New Language of Consumer Behavior")

Today, it is possible to make products that are absolutely perfect for a consumer.  This is possible because consumers can use the Internet to acquire a great deal of information about available brands.  Consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that are exactly what they want rather than settle for a product that is ok.  Resonance marketing is about giving your customer exactly what s/he wants rather than making products that are basically ok. When you get a product that is just right, it will resonate.  To create such products, you need to hyperdifferentiate.  Today, there are microbreweries that make beer that resonate with consumers.  A beer made by a microbrewery might only have 75,000 customers but these consumers will be very, very excited about the beer.  A beer such as Budweiser is made to appeal to millions of consumers but how many of them are excited about it.  A hyperdifferentiated beer that is consumed by 75,000 extremely loyal customers will cost more.  Advertising will be too expensive so you will not see any ads for it.  Word of mouse (buzz marketing on the web) is the way people find out about it.  The goal is to create several brands, each targeted to a small segment, and each with no competition.  Hyperdifferentiated products are so unique and special that they have virtually no competition.  On the other hand, a large number of people may hate the product. 

Eric Clemons in his paper entitled "The Challenges of Resonance Marketing:  Managing Complexity While Creating Profits Through Differentiation and Delight"  makes the following key points:  (1) hyperdifferentiation requires a whole new way of thinking.  What you read in the textbooks is not appropriate when using extreme differentiation. (2) Companies using resonance marketing should be concerned about getting a smaller number of customers to love its product rather than getting a large number of customers to like the product.  As noted above, if you want to charge more for a product, it should not be seen as a commodity (i.e., all are the same).  You want your customers to love the product so much that they will pay more for it.  In fact, they will not only pay more for it but tell everyone about it. (3)  Don't worry if a large number of people hate your product.  This is normal when you use hyperdifferentiation.  The people that hate your product are of no concern.    (4)  People look for the lowest possible prices for products that do not matter very much to them.  On the other hand, if something is really important  and gets them excited (i.e., makes them resonate), they will pay a premium. 

Did you ever hear of East India Pale Ale?  It is made by Brooklyn Brewery. 

Go to Corey and Nate's website to see ratings of  microbrews.
One of the great hyperdifferentiated beers is
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  I think  that beer sounds better than Blind Pig English Style Ale.  These websites take the place of advertising.

Question to think about:  What would you rather make:  (a) a product that is acceptable (they like it but do not love it) to 1,000,000 consumers but has 10 competitors. or (b) a product that is loved and resonates with 100,000 consumers and has 0 competitors. 
To answer this question, please remember that (a) needs a great deal of advertising to convince consumers that your brand is better than the competition; (b) should not need any advertising. Also, you can charge considerably more for (b) than (a) since it "resonates" with consumers.

After you finish this chapter, sit down and have a bottle of Hop Devil beer! You deserve it.  (I am not kidding; Clemons mentions this beer by name.)


Another Article on Resonance Marketing  This paper appeared in the Journal of Internet  Commerce, 2007, 6(1), 83-99.

A New Kind of Marketing:   Creating Micro-niches Using Resonance Marketing

Hershey H. Friedman, Ph.D.
Professor of Business and Marketing
Brooklyn College of the City University of New York

  Tomas Lopez-Pumarejo, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Marketing
Brooklyn College of the City University of New York

Linda Weiser Friedman, Ph.D.
Professor of Computer Information Systems
Baruch College of the City University of New York

A New Kind of Marketing:  Creating Micro-niches Using Resonance Marketing


In addition to its remarkable influence over many other critical aspects of society, the Internet has dramatically changed the field of marketing.  Today, a company competes with firms throughout the world, in real time.  With hundreds of companies offering the same product, it can be very difficult to differentiate one’s brand.  And, where there are many brands competing for market share, it is inevitable that the product category will eventually be seen as a commodity; when that happens, consumers will simply purchase the one that is least expensive.   This shift appears to have already occurred, for example, in the computer industry; many consumers do not see any difference among the personal computers made by, say, Dell, Gateway, and Sony.  Moreover, it is very difficult to compete on the basis of price with countries where salaries are a fraction of what they are in the Western world. 

Over the past decade or so, the success of the Internet as a channel for conducting business has spawned a variety of new business models and strategies.  One such strategy for firms that wish to compete in today’s highly competitive marketplace is resonance marketing.   Resonance marketing, a term coined by Clemons and Spitler (2004), is about making products that are absolutely perfect for a small number of consumers.  The goal is not to create products that many consumers like but, rather, to use hyper-differentiation to make products that a smaller number of consumers love (Clemons, Gao, and Hitt,  2006; Clemons and Spitler, 2004; Clemons et al.,  2003).  Resonance marketing is about giving customers exactly what they want rather than making products that are merely good or satisfactory. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that are exactly what they want rather than settle for a product that is ok.  When a consumer buys a product that is just right, it will resonate.  Consumers will rate it as superior or outstanding, not just good.  To create such products, you need to hyper-differentiate. 


Hyper-differentiated products are precisely on target as opposed to being merely satisfactory or acceptable.  Creating such products requires targeting micro-niches.   In the past, it was difficult or impossible to get distribution for products targeted to micro-niches.  Brick-and-mortar retailers have only a limited amount of shelf space.  Products with market shares of say 0.2% are probably not going to get any shelf space at all.  The goal, therefore, has been to create products that appeal to a mass market and thereby ensure an adequate amount of shelf space. A large market share was also necessary to generate enough revenues to pay for the advertising, since products appealing to a large target market require a great deal of advertising. These advertisements use expensive media such as network television and major national magazines.  A product that is targeted to a very wide audience will be a product that is liked by many and loved by none.  In other words, it does not resonate, to use Clemons and Spitler’s term. 

The Internet has changed all that.  Today, it is quite possible to make a profitable product with a 0.2% market share.  This is possible today because consumers can use the Internet to acquire a great deal of information about available brands in any particular product category. Word of mouth on the Internet (sometimes referred to as word of mouse) can generate a great deal of enthusiasm.  There will be enough websites touting the product if it is loved by enough people.  Moreover, shelf space is not a problem if distribution is via electronic commerce. All that is needed is a good website to sell the product.  Additionally, if production is outsourced, the entire business could, in theory, be run from a small office.  The key to success in a wired world is not shelf space but buzz marketing.  The goal is to create a huge amount of word of mouse for the product. Allow the product to sell itself.  Hyper-differentiated products are so unique and special that they have virtually no competition.  Indeed, a large number of people may even hate the product. This should not bother the manufacturer.  The price one pays for having a hyper-differentiated on target product that appeals to a micro-niche is that many consumers will hate it.  This is why resonance marketing requires a different kind of marketing research.


Marketers are already familiar with niche marketing, a market segmentation strategy that focuses on satisfying a narrowly defined group of consumers.  Most often, marketers do this by dividing one market segment into several.  This is different from resonance marketing.  Resonance marketing implies niche marketing; but, niche marketing does not imply resonance marketing.  In addition, many textbooks (see, e.g., Boone and Kurtz 2006: 308) suggest that niche marketing, which they feel is synonymous with concentrated marketing, is a strategy used by smaller firms attempting to compete with larger firms with great resources.  Resonance marketing, on the other hand, is a tool for every firm.  Indeed, large and small firms in many industries may need a tool such as resonance marketing in order to thrive in the global economy.


The purpose of this paper is to propose that marketers use the concept of resonance marketing to go after and create micro-niches for hyper-differentiated products.


The Internet and the Micro-niche

Entire industries have already been shaken up in a major way by the Internet.   Examples range from retailing to banking, to real estate, to the desktop pc market mentioned earlier.  Hyper-differentiation is creating new web-based market segments.  In addition, digital media, such as books, movies, music, and video, are currently undergoing a sea change.

Micro-niche Publishing:  The rules in the publishing industry have changed. In the past, books were sold mainly in bookstores.  Shelf space was a big consideration and the books that got published were mainly by established authors such as Stephen King, John Grisham, Danielle Steel, Anne Rice, or Robert Ludlum.  Of course, publishers would sometimes take chances on new names, but the bulk of the business, however, came from books that were targeted to a very large audience.  Today, publishers such as iUniverse use print-on-demand technology so that there are no inventories; books are published when the orders arrive.  (This is also the way Dell sells its computers.)  Books do not have to go out-of-print. Families can even write books about themselves.  Vanity presses are all but obsolete.  The three largest self-publishing houses ―Authorhouse, iUniverse, and Xlibris―  introduced almost 12,000 titles in 2004 (Glazer, 2005). The cost of a self-published book is a few hundred dollars; vanity presses charge between $8,000 and $50,000 for a book.

A key advantage of self-publishing, according to Richard Sarnoff of Random House Ventures, is the ability to market books to “micro-niches that are so small that publishers would not be interested in publishing them in the traditional way” (Glazer, 2005).  Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding: Achieving Permanent Weight Loss with Minimally Invasive Surgery by Jessie Ahroni has been on the iUniverse best selling list for some time.  This book is definitely targeted to a micro-niche, individuals interested in losing weight with an adjustable gastric band.  Some self-published books, e.g., The Rhythm of Life:  Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose by Matthew Kelly, did so well – 100,000 copies sold – that they were reissued by traditional publishers.  The future of self-publishing may very well be one in which almost every family will want a coffee table book that includes their favorite poems, photos, recipes and the family philosophy of life. 

e-Books:  The Internet has changed the book industry in other ways.  One can now purchase a book in digital form.  The book can be downloaded and read on a computer or handheld device (e-book reader).  Students can download chapters of textbooks and print them at home.  Instructors can, if they wish, teach a course using chapters assigned from several different textbooks. 

Distribution of Digital Media:  Think of the largest bookstore in the world.  How many books does it have in stock? Very large bookstores may have as many as 200,000 titles.  Online bookstores, such as Amazon, provide access to millions of books including used books and e-books; music download stores provide access to more than 1.5 million songs.  Consumers today want access to an unlimited selection so they can precisely choose the product they want, a product that makes them considerably more than content.  

Movies:  The film industry is also being dramatically changed by the Internet.  It is now as easy to make a film as it is to publish a book. All one needs is a digital video camera, a computer, and some good editing software. The problem is not in making the film, it is in getting distribution. Films released by the major studios account for about 90% of the box office receipts ( Leipzig , 2005).  Currently, even if an independent film maker gets distribution, it is doubtful that she will make any money since very few independently-distributed films make a profit.  This may all soon change.  The traditional model of film distribution — which used to take about 6 months but has been shrinking — begins with theaters, moves on to pay-per-view, then to home video, then to pay cable networks, and finally to free network television.  This traditional model is being challenged by film makers who are experimenting with simultaneous release (known as day-and-date releases or omni debuts). A major advantage of a simultaneous release is that a great deal of money is saved on advertising.  Moreover, the amount of money made from home video is considerably more (about double and growing) than that made in theaters.  Ours is an aging population and a large portion prefers seeing films at home (Senior Journal, 2006).   The future of films is probably the same as with books:  films made inexpensively and targeted to micro-niches and sold over the Internet.  A major obstacle – at the moment – is the time it takes to download a film.  As technology improves, it should be as easy to download a film as an e-book.   

Mashups:  Some consumers are mixing together several different songs or a song from one album with the instrumental music of another.  These blends are known as mash-ups.  Consumers have gone far beyond blending music from different albums together.  Many are engaging in various kinds of transmuting behavior with digital goods they have purchased and / or downloaded from the internet (Hughes and Lang 2006).  People are now combining the content of several websites to create something even better.  For instance, the website combines crimes committed in Chicago with Google Maps so people can see which crimes were committed in their neighborhoods.  Jeffrey P. Bezos, CEO of Amazon, observed:  "They're taking little bits and pieces from a number of companies and stitching them together in some clever way.  You'll start to see the real power of Web services." ( Hof , 2005).  Mash-ups may totally change the film and music industry.  Would a consumer be willing to purchase a DVD on which he actually sings a duet with, say, Nat King Cole?  It would make a great gift for a significant other.  How about a film that allows the customer to insert himself / herself into it? 


Marketing Methods for Micro-niche Products



Marketing Research for Micro-niche Products


Traditional marketing research for most products attempts to create a product that appeals to a large number of consumers.  Indeed, many firms believe that if you are not among the top three in market share, then you have a dog and should leave the industry.  Some companies are not interested in competing unless its brand is either number one or number two.  This strategy made sense when everything revolved around shelf space.  Brands could be measured in terms of the proportion of consumers that were aware of the brand (awareness set), the proportion that would actually consider buying the brand (evoked set), the proportion that would never buy that brand (inept set), and the proportion that had no opinion or were neutral (inert set).  The goal, then, was to increase the size of the evoked set.  A company wanted its brand to possess “top of mind” awareness, i.e., the one mentioned first when consumers were asked to list brands within a product category.  With resonance marketing, one’s brand may have such an insignificant market share that most consumers have never even heard of it.  In fact, if the buzz marketing is very successful, it may be in many consumers inept set.  Appealing to a micro-niche, may result in a large number of consumers who would never consider the product. 

Market research must be used to determine how to create a product that is loved, not merely liked.  Focus groups can help with this.  A company interested in developing a new brand of cola might ask consumers loyal to a particular brand, say, Coca Cola, the following:  You like Coke, what would make you love it?  Or, the question might ask:  You like Coke, why don’t you love it?  Is there something that might make you love it?  The company might end up selling a brand of cola that (1) contains scotch or (2) is uncarbonated or (3) contains vitamins or (4) an organic cola.  Of course, these products will never compete with Coca Cola. They will be targeted to micro-niches.  Sound impossible?  Take a look at what is going on with the beer industry. Microbreweries are targeting hyper-differentiated beers to very small segments.  Websites such as Corey and Nate's ( ) rate the microbrews.  One of the higher rated  hyper-differentiated beers is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  Men’s Journal ( rates Saison Dupont as the “best beer in the world.”  The Dupont Brewery has a website with a 12-minute streaming media video to tell you about the brewery  (   The 12-minute video takes the place of costly 30-second television commercials on American television. This is the new kind of marketing. 

Organic cola?  Uncarbonated soda?  Perhaps not as impossible as it sounds.  It is interesting to note that soda consumption is declining; the two major brands, Pepsi and Coke Classic have lost market share.  Experts believe that consumers are moving away from carbonated beverages to bottled water, energy drinks (e.g., Red Bull), juices, and sports drinks (e.g., Gatorade). John Faucher, an analyst at JP Morgan Chase, feels that this is not only due to an interest in lower calorie and more healthful alternatives.  He says that “consumers want new exciting beverages” (Warner, 2006).  It is quite likely that consumers prefer beverages that resonate, and provide delight and pleasure, not simply satisfy. 

Targeting the Micro-niche  

Selecting a target market using hyper-differentiation requires research, as noted above.  Two ways of hyper-differentiating a product are by cause marketing and multicultural marketing.

Using Cause Marketing:  Young consumers, especially those who are under 30, are very interested in purchasing products that are helping making this a better world. In fact, according to Business Week (2004), teenagers claim that they are more likely to buy products that support charitable causes.  Millions of dollars for cancer research were raised by Nike by selling the one dollar yellow bracelets. This helped Nike improve its image, one hurt by reports that Nike used foreign sweatshops to manufacture its products.  Young people actually think it is cool to wear a rubber bracelet to help fight cancer.  The GAP sells $20 teddy bears with the profits going to buy coats for poverty-stricken children.  The 2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study shows that 86% of Americans are “likely to switch from one brand to another that is about the same in price and quality if the other brand is associated with a cause” (Cause Marketing Forum, 2005).   The same study also showed that young people between the ages of 18 and 25 are especially likely to take into account corporate support of social causes when making purchasing and employment decisions.  According to the IEG Sponsorship Report, the amount spent on cause marketing in 2004 was approximately $991 million.  Cause marketing is one simple way of finding a target market. 

Many traditional companies are raising money for charity; one major reason is that cause marketing can help a firm enhance its image (Varadarajan and Menon, 1988; Simon, 1995; Earle, 2000; Berglind and Nakata, 2005; Kotler and Lee, 2005).  However, there is evidence that cause marketing works best when there is a good fit between the firm’s expertise and the cause being promoted (Becker-Olsen, Cudmore, and Hill, 2006).  If there is a poor fit and / or if the public feels that the firm is involved in cause marketing in order to make a profit and not to benefit society, then it can hurt the firm’s image. 

To use cause marketing, a firm has to conduct research to find a charity that is of interest to its target market and that fits its image.  What you are looking for is a charity that resonates with the target market.  Starbucks contributes 5 cents from each bottle of Ethos water sold in its stores towards the goal of providing children living in the poorest regions of the world with clean water.  At the Ethos website (, the point is made that “water-related diseases are the leading cause of death among the world’s children, taking a life every 14 seconds.”  The idea of using bottled water to fund clean water and thereby save the lives of children is a good fit.    Cause marketing is a relatively simple way of finding a micro-niche for a product. 

Closely related to cause marketing is green marketing. Menon and Menon (1997) note that the green market is growing very rapidly. The image of a company can be affected by its environmental performance (Miles and Covin, 2000).  Consumers are willing to pay premiums for products that are good for the environment.  Of course, the product should also be of high quality, since it is doubtful if consumers will pay a premium for a bad products solely because it is green.  The Green-e website ( states that 98% of energy used in the United States comes from nonrenewable sources such as fossil fuels, a major cause of global warming. The website encourages consumers to switch to a more expensive but nonpolluting energy made from renewable sources such as wind and hydropower.  There are websites that sell organic clothing, environmentally-friendly clothing, and vegan shoes.  Websites such as The Green Guide ( ) are resources for consumers who are concerned about the environment.  These websites are a good place to advertise green products that resonate with green consumers. 

Cause marketing and green marketing can be tied together.  Create a product that is green, uses environmentally-friendly packaging, and 10 cents of every sale is used to preserve the rainforests. 

Using Multicultural Marketing:  Another way of finding a micro-niche is to use multicultural marketing. There are a large number of groups that are being ignored by marketers; resonance marketing should work for them.  There is no standard definition of multicultural marketing ( Burton , 2005). This paper will define multicultural marketing so that it is  about targeting, communicating, and using differentiated marketing strategies to diverse cultures including ethnic groups, religious groups, nationalities, people living in a particular geographic region, or groups that share common beliefs, values, attitudes or a way of life.    

The disabilities market is very large and will continue to grow as the baby boomers become senior citizens; it is expected to double within 15 years.  About 20% of Americans have a disability; 10% have a severe disability (Kraus, Stoddard, and Gilmartin, 1996).  There are many kinds of disabilities. Wilkins (2003), studying the disabilities market in Australia , used 17 screening questions, e.g., “Partial or total loss of sight that is not corrected by lenses,” to determine whether or not someone had a disability.

The best rule for creating products for individuals with disabilities is to ask the disabled directly what they need.  This may be the easiest way to create products that resonate with consumers. Harry Herman, a nuclear engineer, broke his ankle and discovered that crutches are very uncomfortable and can cause numerous health problems for users.  He started a company, Orthotic Mobility Systems (, and developed the “Sure Foot” cane and the “Strutter.”  These products are promoted on his website (Silva, 2001).   Tracy Saks is a divorced mother with multiple sclerosis.  She found it difficult to socialize so she created her own website for disabled singles, (Rowland, 2005)

A large number of consumers have difficulty gripping products.  Jars that have to be twisted off are a big problem for the elderly and those with arthritis in their fingers and hands.  Jars that are easy to grip and are arthritic-hands friendly could be a big hit with millions of people.  Canes are used by millions of people.  One problem that comes up very often is that they tend to fall down and it is not easy for the user to bend down and pick it up. How about canes that do not fall down?  Perhaps an electronic device can be attached to the cane so that when the cane is not in use a button can be pressed and it will automatically be able to stand.   How about a multi-purpose cane (a “Swiss Army” cane?) that includes a built-in light and a button to press to get help?  How about a cane that can be used to reach for objects that are down on the floor or on high shelves?  Are these products necessary?  The way to find out is to do research and speak to the disabled.

A marketer should make a list of every possible disability and then use the list and ask whether something can be done to her product to make it more useful to those with, say,  hearing difficulties, walking difficulties, seeing difficulties, gripping difficulties, etc.  How about very obese people? Can they use the product easily?  How about the mentally handicapped?  A list of disabilities may be found at: 

Take something as simple as a basic wheelchair. There are approximately 100 to 150 million people in need of wheelchairs worldwide (Wheelchair Foundation, 2005). Because of landmines and unexploded ordinance, the number will continue to grow by about 29,000 people per year.  Most people in developing countries cannot afford the cost of a wheelchair.  An inexpensive wheelchair would be very popular worldwide.  This is a good example where cause marketing could be used as well.  For example, a company selling expensive running shoes could set aside $1 from the sale of each pair of shoes towards purchasing a wheelchair for a disabled person. A number of companies manufacture wheelchairs and walkers that are meant to be used on beaches.  Those with mobility problems want to use the beach but have difficulty walking on the sand.  The National Center on Accessibility has a website that shows various types of wheelchairs that can be used on sand (all-terrain wheelchairs) and aquatic wheelchairs for the  water ( 

The approach used with disabilities to create micro-niches, could also be used with various illnesses.  A firm or entrepreneurial person could make a list of dozens of ailments and see whether products could be tailor-made for them. For example, take insomnia, it is not a disability but 60,000,000 people suffer from it (United States Department of Health & Human Services, 2002). There are a large number of products that would resonate with consumers.  Since a large number of people with insomnia share a bedroom with someone else, there may be a need for a small, personal computer with wireless earphones that enable the individual with insomnia to work or listen to music in bed without disturbing his/her partner.   Left-handedness is also not a disability. However, left-handed people have difficulty using all kinds of products ranging from scissors to pruners.  There is a website for left-handed people:

There are a large number of diabetics in the world.  Every bakery sells sugar-free cakes for them but diabetics do not love these products; they do not even like them.  They are very poor substitutes for the real product.   Creating products that taste as good as the real McCoy would be a big hit.  Everyone probably knows at least one diabetic that cheats and eat cheesecake and Napolean pastries.  Create products like that with the taste of the authentic pastry and you will have a product that resonates.  The same can be said for wines for diabetics. Alcohol is a big problem for them; there are, however, wines that are permissible for some diabetics. 

There are a large number of ethnic groups in the United States .  Marketers have been targeting the Latino market and the African-American market, two very large groups.  There are, however, a number of smaller ethnic groups that may be yearning for products that they cannot find in the United States .  There are a number of retailers who cater to ethnic groups living in a neighborhood.  Thus, there are stores in Polish neighborhoods that sell a large number of products from Poland . There will always be groups that are too scattered and/or too small to be able to support an entire store.  These groups are perfect micro-niches and can be reached via the Internet. Some examples of relatively small groups that reside in the United States include the following:  Brazilian, Egyptian, Israeli, Turkish, Nigerian, Thai, Serbian, Syrian, Iranian, Romanian, Armenian, and Laotian.  A complete list of ethnic groups numbering 100,000 or more may be found at:  There may be opportunities marketing products to relatively large groups such as Russians (2.6 million), Chinese (2.3 million), Hungarian (1.4 million), Filipino (2.1 million), Japanese (1.1 million), and Vietnamese (1 million). The key is to find products that these groups love. Research should be done to determine whether the products out there resonate with them.

How about the market for religious people?  For those who think this market should be ignored:  consider that The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren has been on the NY Times best seller list for more than three years.  The publisher is Zondervan, a publisher of books by Christian authors and dealing with subjects of interest to Christians.  Several films with Christian themes such as The Chronicles of Narnia have done quite well; it is number 23 on the “All-Time Worldwide Box Office Receipts.”   We are reasonably certain that there are many smaller religious sects that would be interested in films sold via the Internet.  How about books and films for those believing in Sikhism (23 million), Juche (19 million), Baha’I (7 million), Shinto (4 million), Cao Dai ( 4 million), and/or Zoroastrianism (2.6 million)?   There are even smaller religions that could be a micro-niche:  Unitarian-Universalism (800,000) and Rastafarianism (600,000). 

Even within religions, there may exist micro-niches.  In Judaism there are those that are Orthodox, i.e., Jews who are strict about observing halacha (Jewish law), laws that include the Sabbath and keeping kosher.  It is difficult to measure the size of this group; estimates range from 600,000 to 1,000,000 in the United States .  They have special needs.  For instance, wedding gowns that are sold to the general public would not be appropriate.  Jewish law requires a more modest gown, one that is not see-through, has high necklines, and covers the arms to the elbow.   There are many websites for brides that are interested in modest wedding gowns.  There are websites for those interested in Jewish music.  The micro-niche can even be smaller.  Among Orthodox Jews, there is a group consisting of, at most, 100,000 Lubavitch (Chabad) Chassidim.  They have their own customs.  One day there will be a website that sells Lubavitch films, fiction with Lubavitch characters, Lubavitch music, etc.  One very specialized film made by a secular director and ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel was Ushpizin.   The film cost about $1 million to make and has earned several million dollars.   

Pricing the Micro-niche Product

One advantage of resonance marketing is that since the product is hyper-differentiated so that it is very different from other brands and is loved by customers, a higher price can be charged for it. In the case of perfect competition, where all brands are seen as identical (homogeneous product), no firm can charge more for its product.  The classic case is a commodity such as wheat.  If a farmer charges one cent more per bushel than other farmers, s/he will lose every single customer.  However, once consumers believe that products are heterogeneous, the firm moves from perfect competition to monopolistic competition and the firm can charge more for the product.  We see this with a simple commodity such as an egg.  When consumers purchased eggs and saw them as all being identical, it became impossible for one farmer to charge more for his/her eggs than the competition.  Today, there are eggs that cost twice as much as regular eggs.  These are enriched eggs that contain omega-3 fatty acids that are supposed to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer (and also help brain function).  These eggs look exactly like other eggs; the difference is in what the hens are fed.  The real difference from a marketer’s perspective is in what people believe.  If people believe that the eggs are different and better, a premium can be charged for them. 


Promoting a Micro-niche Product:

Hyper-differentiated products cannot usually rely on traditional mass advertising techniques such as television.  The new kind of promotion that must be used is buzz marketing.  Buzz marketing or viral marketing as it is sometimes called, relies on getting consumers to “talk” about a product. Some products that have become huge successes because of word-of-mouth include the film The Blair Witch Project, Razor scooters, and a number of best-selling books.  There is no question that word-of-mouth is a very powerful tool for all kinds of products and services.  Oprah Winfrey has the ability to turn a book into a bestseller simply by recommending it on her show. 

Rosen (2005) makes it clear that buzz marketing requires the use of both face-to-face communication and the Internet. He notes that 80% of consumers claim that, in the last 12 months, they recommended a product to another person in a face-to face situation vs. 37% that did this via e-mail.  Thus, good buzz marketing requires different kinds of people pushing a product and different approaches.  One cannot rely solely on blogs and online communities.  The people involved in buzz marketing include those that talk to friends (“connectors”) as well as experts (“mavens”).  One way this works is that trend-setters in communities throughout the world have to be found.  Their job is to spread the word about the brand to friends, neighbors, and anyone willing to listen. Spreading the word may not be difficult today since trend-setters are often part of online communities.  There are companies such as BzzAgent ( that encourage consumers to become BzzAgents whose job is  to spread word of mouth to friends about all kinds of products.  BzzAgent has thousands of people in its network and they do this for prizes and it also makes them feel important.  These agents feel that they are providing an “honest” opinion since they are not paid for this and are not obligated to promote products they do not like ( Walker , 2004).  Companies involved in creating a buzz about products and services try to find agents who have lots of friends and love to talk. 

The Internet has become a very significant advertising medium.  According to Business Week (2004), about 14% of media time is spent on the Internet. The Internet allows a firm to measure response, i.e., how many viewers clicked on their website.  Television ratings, on the other hand, do not measure how many viewers actually saw the commercial; what is measured is how many people watched the program.  The Internet is used by a large number of consumers to search for information before purchasing a product.  This is why Google has become an important advertising vehicle.  When a person does a search, say, for “arthritis,” she will see many advertisements on the right-side of the page (“sponsored links”) for all kinds of products.  These advertisements are meant to be clicked on, thus providing a measurable response.   Google uses a sophisticated mathematical model (factors considered include gender, location, time of day, etc.) to match the advertisement to the consumer in order to encourage clicking on the advertisement.  The goal is to connect the consumer with the advertisement that is most relevant to her. 

To summarize, the techniques to promote hyper-differentiated products that appeal to micro-niches will not be the same as that of traditional products.  The Internet will have to be used and the goal will be to create a buzz about the product, one so strong that it will reduce the necessary expenditures on traditional advertising.  This does not mean that it will totally eliminate the need for advertising.  In fact, it may be necessary to use many kinds of promotions to get the word out about the product. 


The Internet has changed the rules of marketing.  Firms that want to be successful in today’s highly networked world should use resonance marketing, in conjunction with cause marketing and/or multicultural marketing, to create new market niches.  Marketers will have to learn to think small rather than big.  Smaller market shares, small advertising budgets, but premium prices.

A firm may find that the only way it can compete in a competitive market is to go after micro-niches and develop hyper-differentiated products for them. Research has to answer the following question:  Should we sell a product that is acceptable (they like it but do not love it) to 2,000,000 consumers, has 10 competitors, and will require a huge advertising budget?  Or, will we be better off selling a product that is loved, resonates with 80,000 consumers, has 0 competitors, and generates enough word of mouse so that little advertising is required?   With the first strategy, line and brand extensions are used to increase profits.  However, with enough line and brand extensions, the product may indeed seem more and more like a commodity.  With a resonance marketing approach, totally new brands are created targeted to different micro-niches.  One website can sell several brands, each targeted to a different niche.  Or, if the brands are not compatible, a new website can be created.  It is a lot easier to create five websites than get distribution in supermarkets for five new brands of anything. The cost of a new website is considerably less than the cost of slotting fees; these are fees charged to retailers to provide shelf space for new products. 

Those interested in entrepreneurship have to understand the principles of resonance marketing.  Creating products for micro-niches is the easiest way for a startup to go into business.  What is needed is a target market, a supplier, a website, and a product that is loved.


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For those of you interested in entrepreneurship:  If you check the eSmallOffice website below, you will find some information on several emerging markets:  They include:  African-American Entrepreneurs, Asian-American Entrepreneurs, Hispanic Entrepreneurs, Minority Entrepreneurs, Senior Entrepreneurs, and Women Entrepreneurs. You will also find some interesting material on how to measure customer satisfaction.


(c) 2011 H.H. Friedman