How useful is social class as a variable for segmenting consumer markets? Explore.
In the early days of segmentation, according to Schiffman, it was not unusual to apply only one segmentation criterion, e.g. demographic segmentation. Today marketers have realized that it is to simplified to apply only one criterion for segmenting complex markets. Therefore, it is common to combine several criteria to create rich and comprehensive segmentation profiles in order to find the most beneficial target markets for one’s product. Shortly, it can be argued that geographic and demographic variables help to locate a certain target market, whereas psycho-graphic and socio-cultural variables help describe who its members are, how they think and how they feel.
Demographic is segmenting customers based on age, income, gender, etc. Geographic is based on the region or country they live in. psycho-graphic is based on their personality and socio-cultural segmentation is segmenting the market based on their subculture, religion, social class, family lifestyle/life-cycle (single, married etc). Currently, we will focus on the importance of segmenting the consumer markets based on their social class.
Almost every society has some form of a social class structure. According to Kotler, Social classes are society’s relatively permanent and ordered divisions whose members share similar values, interest, and behaviors.
Society is mainly divided into three major classes, Upper, Middle and Lower. But social scientists have identified that society can be classified into seven social classes. They are the Upper Uppers, Lower Uppers, Upper Middles, Middle Class, Working Class, Upper Lower, and Lower Lowers (See Appendix I).
Companies need to consider social class as a variable for segmenting the consumer markets because it is useful for them in determining their target market. It helps them in setting the different marketing mix for different target market based on their social class. For example, a car company like Toyota produces many different types of car with different brands; prices and which are targeted to different people. The expensive cars like Land Cruiser and Celica is targeted to the upper class. While their other brands like Soluna and Toyota Kijang is mainly focused on the middle and working class.
Marketers are also interested in social class because people within a given social class tend to show similar buying behavior. It helps the marketers in setting the price and the quality to use for their product. For instance the Upper Uppers way of decision-making of purchasing a product and the product they purchase would be different from those of the Upper Lower.
They would prefer to purchase a more expensive product with good quality. They would not go for cheap products thinking that because if it is inexpensive, it is sure an inferior product. For example, in choosing a car. The upper class would prefer to buy something more elite and exclusive like Mercedes and Lexus since it has a class, and is more of a good quality product. They would not go for something like Timor. Therefore, it is vital that marketers consider the social class when segmenting consumers because it influences on consumer purchasing decision-making. Here, marketers know that their upper class consumers see the quality comparing to price. So they have to develop a product with merit features, since the society is affordable to pay for the product.
Besides aiming on target market and setting the price, it also helps the marketers in deciding their advertising activities. The way a company advertises for an expensive and exclusive products will be different from the way they advertise a low quality product. I’m sure a marketer would not waste a lot of money in their advertising campaign for an inferior product that is targeted to the middle and lower class. Example, for soap products like Lux and Giv. Lux Company focuses on middle to upper class as their target market. To make it look like a pricier product, they use famous actresses as their model. At times, the model in the advertising do effect on the consumer decision-making. While Giv Company focuses more on lower class consumers. They are less bother to hire expensive models for their advertising. They would go for a more simple advertising campaign.
Overall, I would like to state that if marketers use social classes in targeting their consumer markets, they will be able to easily identify their target, understand their consumer behavior, minimize risk for new products and services and hence can organize successful marketing strategies in which they can sell their products in a better way and can gain more profit. They will also be able to know about the needs of their customers and hence can serve them better in the future.