Last Updated: Apr 3, 2017
Segmentation is one way to build your brand, but the best way is to identify your ideal, perfect customer and base your branding on that. Here are five reasons you should focus on finding your unicorn customer from branding expert Deb Gabor. 

A store is a place you go to buy stuff, usually out of convenience or habit. In contrast, brands inspire irrational loyalty and yes, even love. How does a company build itself into a brand that people can fall deeply, madly in love with? The old model says segmentation is the key to business success. This involves strategically dividing your potential customers into groups based on who they are and why/how they’re buying. Segmentation is a fine marketing tactic, but it won’t build a brand people can wholeheartedly rally behind. In fact, segmentation can even work against a brand by diluting the brand identity. In order to build the type of brand that customers can fall in love with, you must first create a detailed picture of your ideal “unicorn” customer.

Let me start with a real-world example of one brand that I personally worked with. This company is a parent-focused digital media company with the mission to make every parent feel like a rock-star by inspiring them to do fun things with their kids. When I asked them who they thought their ideal customer was, they initially described a harried, anxious, busy mom struggling to find activities for their kids that didn’t involve plugging them into a TV or an iPad to watch movies while they went about completing other household tasks. In fact, their ideal customer – the person likely to bring in the most revenue for this company over time – was an “everyday” parent who values spending quality time with the people who matter most. She’s primarily a mom who wants to get out and do something FUN TOGETHER. Unlike their initial ideal customer impression, this parent is practical, always prepared, and highly engaged. She’s not perfect, but she’s resourceful and into finding great ideas for connecting with her kids with a single click. She’s always out and about – but more importantly, engaged – with her family, going to festivals, exhibits, performances, and games. She spends a lot of money on engaging activities with the whole family. So, for a digital media company that makes money from parents researching and paying for family experiences online, you can see why she’s the ideal customer.

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This example clearly demonstrates how to define this ideal customer. First, start by asking yourself these three questions:

Then, create an in-depth profile of this customer – the person who is most highly predictive of your brand’s success. Imagine the ideal customer in excruciating detail: What kind of car do they drive? What clothing do they wear? What’s their perfume? Every minute detail must be worked out in your mind so this person becomes as real as possible. To help you fill in the details, consider doing the opposite of segmentation. Think about what unites your customers, and create a singular brand that is for a singular customer archetype.

What are the benefits of identifying the ideal “unicorn” customer?

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Is Segmentation Dead?

Segment marketing has its place, and identifying the ideal customer archetype shouldn’t replace segmentation practices. But if your boss has asked you to go out and segment the market, you are probably putting the cart before the horse. First you have to identify the ideal customer, and then you can think about segmentation. Remember, you’re building a brand for ONE and segmenting the market to get your actual product or service in front of many.

If you want to make yourself more attractive to the man or woman of your dreams, you don’t start off by researching all the people in the world who might find you attractive. You focus in on that one person – your ideal mate – and learn everything you can about them – their favorite flowers, what TV shows they like, what they do on Friday nights. In order to build a brand, you have to approach your customers in a similar way. Learn more about the ideal customer and let those insights inform the brand identity. Segmentation can help in marketing, but it’s not going to help build a brand that customers can fall in love with. Finding your “unicorn” customer will.

Deb Gabor is author and founder of Sol Marketing which has led brand strategy engagements for organizations ranging from international household names like Dell, Microsoft, and NBC , to digital winners like Allrecipes, Cheezburger, HomeAway and RetailMeNot, and dozens of early-stage tech and digital media titans. For more information, please visit www.solmarketing.com and connect with Deb on Twitter, @deb_sol.

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