One of the most challenging aspects of launching a new product or service can be determining who to market it to. Market targeting does not mean that the brand wishes to exclude any one consumer or type of consumer; rather, it means defining the specific market that will be most impacted by the bulk of the company’s marketing budget. An example of this might be a landscaping company that markets to homeowners between the ages of 30 and 55 with incomes of $80,000 in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. To break the market down even further, the landscaper could choose to focus only on those interested in designing functional outdoor living areas for entertaining and relaxation.

To drill down to this level of specificity, the marketer’s best bet is to use tools designed for this purpose, such as Claritas’ MyBestSegments PRIZM® tool and VALS™. Both of these frameworks segment American adults into various groups or types, using demographics, geographics, and psychographics to help explain the composition of the group. Marketers can use these tools to find out where and how their ideal customer lives, works, and plays so that they can create effective marketing content for them.


The PRIZM tool defines every American household in terms of 66 distinct segments to help marketers discover consumers’ likes, dislikes, lifestyles, and purchase behaviors. It provides a “common language” for marketing and is used by thousands of marketing professionals in Fortune 500 companies (“Claritas PRIZM,” 2017). The segments are grouped into 11 Lifestage Groups and 14 Social Groups, and take into account traits like income, education, occupation, and home value. In my neighborhood just twenty minutes west of Atlanta, the most common segments are:

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Of these, the groups my landscaping example would focus on are 30 Pools and Patios and 33 Second City Startups. They would be the most likely to want to install outdoor living areas for relaxation and entertainment purposes. The tool also breaks down population by age, race & ethnicity, household income, and household composition within a specific zip code, to help the marketer decide whether a particular area is a good fit for his product or service.


VALS™ segments US adults into eight distinct types using psychological traits and key demographics that have been proven to drive consumer behavior. The eight types are Innovators, Thinkers, Believers, Achievers, Strivers, Experiencers, Makers, and Survivors. They are arranged using the US Framework, which illustrates the VALS types in reference to their primary motivations and resources:


To find out which VALS type you fall into, take the US VALS Survey. It sorts the survey taker into a primary type – that which you are most like – and a secondary type – the group you are next most like. Generally speaking, a person’s primary VALS type represents her dominant approach to life, while the secondary type represents a particular emphasis on the dominant approach. To illustrate, I was sorted into the primary type of Innovators and the secondary type of Experiencers.

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As it happens, for the purposes of our landscaper, these are probably the two types he would most want to market his outdoor-living areas to.

Beyond using specific tools like PRIZM and VALS, here are a few tips to help you define your target market:

  • Examine current customer base
  • Check out the competition
  • Analyze your product or service to clearly identify benefits and features
  • Choose specific demographics to target. Think about age, location, gender, income level, education level, marital or family status, occupation, and ethnic background
  • Consider psychographics: personality, attitudes, values, hobbies and interests, lifestyle, and behavior
  • Evaluate your decision. Are there enough people in your target market? Will they see a need for your product/service? Do you understand what motivates your target market? Can they afford your product/service? Are they easily accessible to hear your messaging?

The amount of time a marketer spends defining the target market is proportional to the amount of success he will enjoy with his marketing efforts to those groups.

Using the PRIZM tool, which groups in your neighborhood would be calling up our fictional landscaper for a backyard overhaul? Which VALS type are you, and how do you think that affects how marketers speak to you?


“US Framework and VALS™ Types.” (n.d.). Retrieved May 27, 2017, from

“Zip Code Look-Up.” (2017). Retrieved May 27, 2017, from