When segmentation goes bad

Orange’s latest campaign, for me, is a prime example of how not to use a consumer segmentation. 


They’ve developed a reasonable seeming, pan-European, psychographic segmentation. Which, according to my friends at Acacia Avenue, is “a mix of psychological and demographic factors providing richer understanding of the deep motivations influencing behaviour”.

But Orange have only bleedin’ gawn and turned it around and showed it to their customers! I’m sure that’s not what you’re meant to do?! If you were, businesses could just publish their McKinsey-authored strategy, and customers would just fall all over them.

I’m pretty sure segmentation is meant to be used to:

  • Create personas and use-case scenarios for product and service development.
  • Help the organisation internalise a view of who their customers really are as people, not just revenue-earning units.
  • Develop communications messaging and media targeting.

I’m pretty sure it’s not meant to be used to:

  • Provide an advertising veneer for an unchanged and over-complicated set of tariffs.
  • Patronise customers by asking them to self-identify with a generalised set of behaviours that nobody exhibits in reality.

Lastly, as my friend Mark Gent observed yesterday, if you were going to ask customers to compare themselves to animals, would you really want to choose the Racoon – best known for rummaging in dustbins? Who’d want to identify with that behaviour?




Disclosure 1: Orange has been a client of mine on two occasions in the past.

Disclosure 2: I was involved in the very early stages of developing Orange’s consumer segmentation, with the lovely Captain Haddock of Plot. Back then, we imagined it would be used to create exciting new service design concepts.

Disclosure 3: My friends at the branding agency Figtree had something to do with developing this campaign. They know I think it’s whack, I also know I’d be delighted to eat my hat if I’m proved wrong and that Orange’s sales explode as a result of this bold new approach.

Disclosure 4: My old employer Ingram have recently been shafted by Orange and their unique brand of France Telecom inspired politics. But I wrote this post in my mind long before that happened, so it’s not sour grapes.

Disclosure 5: I don’t think I’ve ever read a blog post where the disclosures are longer than the real content before.


2 Responses to “When segmentation goes bad”

  1. Gilly Says:

    Surely its a case of getting people to talk about Orange – good or bad.
    It’s really nothing new, but beats the Bronze, Silver, Gold or 100,200,400 labelling we’ve had in the past.
    I would be interested to see what it does for sign-ups – and see which are the most popular/most switching between.

  2. Glyn Britton Says:

    Fair point Gilly. I just think it’s ‘rearranging the deckchairs’ while all around really creative and disruptive pricing is being announced every day: Carphone Warehouse’s ‘free broadband’, 3’s ‘get paid for receiving calls’, Skype’s ‘free US calls’, AIM Phoneline’s ‘free number’. This is an old marketing solution to a new marketing problem.

    Nice balloons though.

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