Refining the Target Customer

Just who is it, and what do they want for dinner?

Published in the April 2015 Issue Published online: Apr 30, 2015 Blair Richardson, USPB President & CEO
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This column is the third and final installment in a series explaining Blair Richardson’s perspective on how the USPB’s recently conducted segmentation study will be used to drive the big picture marketing direction of the U.S. potato industry for the foreseeable future.

One of the core responsibilities of the United States Potato Board (USPB) is to help the industry understand and properly target consumers with products and promotions. In order to best achieve this, we continually monitor sales and conduct consumer research. This past fall we completed one of the most ambitious consumer research projects ever undertaken at the USPB—a robust, quantitative segmentation of U.S. consumers. The overall objective of this market segmentation was to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the opportunities and challenges to increasing sales of U.S. potatoes and products.

This study was conducted, quantitatively, in September 2014 through an online survey of a large, representative sample of the U.S. population. In order to ensure results would be actionable, the only qualifiers were participants between 18-75 and at least partially responsible for their respective households’ food decisions. The sample included an equal geographic distribution across the United States and was consistent with the most recent U.S. census.

As described in the first two articles of this three-installment series, there are seven distinct consumer segments of the U.S. population as dictated by lifestyle, food and cooking attitudes and behaviors. These seven segments are defined as follows:

  1. Value and convenience
  2. Cooking for health
  3. Creative cooks
  4. Adventurous diner
  5. Live to eat
  6. Short order cook
  7. Too busy to cook

One of our biggest goals in conducting this research was to provide key learnings to the industry on the different segments of the population and how we could all work to better suit their needs. This spring we will be providing in-depth research results so all parties can gain a better understanding of consumer segments and how we can best meet their changing habits and lifestyles.

From a USPB perspective, we were also seeking to find a refined target against which to focus our marketing efforts. A key objective was target refinement, seeking out which segments of the population provide the biggest opportunity to increase overall potato usage and by what types of messaging and communication they would be most influenced.

With this is mind, the USPB Domestic Marketing Committee has made the strategic decision to shift the focus for the consumer marketing program for FY16 (July 2015 through June 2016) from the established “Linda” target to a more food-centric target. We have combined the two targets “live to eat” and “creative cooks” into one larger “food enthusiast” target. The “food enthusiast” target comprises a significantly larger footprint than our current “Linda” target, as they make up 26 percent of the U.S. population and have significant influence beyond their own plates, affecting 50 percent of the U.S. population’s eating habits, since a large portion of them have spouses and/or children in their households.

The food enthusiast super-segment exhibits behavior that aligns very strongly with key attributes of potatoes. They prefer fresh and natural qualities when making eating and purchasing decisions and are generally more food-involved overall, both when eating in and dining out.

For these reasons we believe the entire industry can impact overall potato consumption by focusing on this segment. However, this should not be the only takeaway for the industry from this study. By fully understanding all segments of the U.S. population and their relationship to potatoes, we believe the industry can better market all products to all segments.

To that end the USPB marketing department will continue to provide the industry with more information about all the segments. Through a series of webinars and reports to be released this spring, we will also provide recommendations on how best to impact and influence them. However, if you would like to discuss the study directly, please contact USPB chief marketing officer John Toaspern or USPB marketing programs director Kim Breshears at (303) 369-7783.