Corporate Eye

Don’t Redefine Market Segments, Redefine Market Segment Perceptions

college classroom desksThe market segments that existed 20 years ago have changed significantly with the spread of wireless devices, instant communication, instant access to information, and instant gratification. The parameters used to define college students, teens, and twenty-something market segments have seen some of the biggest changes, and those changes have led to significant misperceptions about the people in those segments.

This is something that Mike Poznansky learned first-hand during his seven years with Red Bull where he led the brand’s college program (he left the company recently to start his own agency, Neato). In an interview with AdWeek, Mike shares some insights that every brand manager should read. Rather than suggesting that marketers should rely on redefining market segments to stay relevant and boost ROI, he suggests that marketers should redefine their perceptions of market segments, particularly the college student segment.

When asked what misperceptions are causing brands to falter with the college student segment, Mike explained:

“[It’s a misperception] that a [brand] ambassador program is the lifeblood of a college marketing program, or that all your focus should be on getting your brand and your product on campus. To color that in, just a fraction of the college experience takes place on campus. Most students don’t even live there. Most of their spending isn’t happening there. So, some brands are just frankly investing way too much money on the wrong things. You really need a comprehensive approach. You’re not going to achieve everything through one vertical.”

Integrated marketing is the key to success across market segments these days, and getting a better understanding of the people within those market segments in 2013 is critically important. Mike explains that college students affect more purchase decisions than ever as parents seek out their help in finding information about products and services online. He also notes that college students are the future power consumers, so investing the time, money, and resources into better understanding this new generation of hyper-connected consumers who don’t remember any other way to live than connected to their mobile devices 24/7.

Consider the market segmentation you’ve done to maximize your brand marketing efforts. Do you really understand the people within each of those segments in 2013, or is part of your “understanding” based on outdated misperceptions? People have changed, and your understanding of your market segments has to evolve to keep up with them. The “traditional” college student buyer persona is anything but traditional these days.

What do you think? Leave a comment and share your thoughts

Image: Tiffany Szerpicki

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.