Americans are a 330-million-strong consumer market force. However, not every person is a potential buyer of every product that’s manufactured and marketed. The universe of consumers is dissected by marketers who segment out the most fertile buying groups for each particular product.

Market segmentation in the discipline of marketing is the recognition of the need to be both efficient and effective with limited resources. This can be achieved by understanding targeted consumer groups on both demographic and psychographic levels, which refer to the attitude, perception and belief factors related to ego and self-identity that can influence a product’s purchase.

The Importance of Gender in Marketing

Gender is the one of the most basic examples of consumer markets. Marketers of sanitary napkins know that their consumer market will be 100% female. However, marketers of condoms know that while males will be their dominant user base, females are also an important buying group.

A product with a female user group will use images, colors and language to appeal to female customers. Similarly, a product with a male business market group will use images that appeal to men: stereotypically alluring females, cars or sports.

Looking at Consumers by Age

Recognize that age is the second most important descriptor of a consumer buying group and affects who and what is purchased. Toys are used by kids but are purchased by parents and grandparents. However, toys are marketed toward kids who then make their primary purchasers aware of their desire to own the toy.

Age will only increase in importance as a consumer market definer as our country's aging population grows in size. Makers of certain kinds of products must adjust their marketing and advertising plans accordingly. Dye for coloring gray hair is most often purchased by women aged 45 or older. Marketers will consider that fact when crafting advertising programs to reach those consumers. In media, they will choose “More” magazine over “Mademoiselle” or feature Lauren Hutton as spokesperson instead of the young actress Lauren London.

Middle-aged men naturally don't feel as virile as in their younger days and will become the consumer market for fast, flashy, sports cars and balding treatments. Car makers will advertise on the Golf channel or on ESPN to reach these male consumer markets characterized by both demographic (age) and psychographic (virility) factors.

Other Important Consumer Markets

There are several more characteristics of a consumer market. Consider that geography is also an important factor influencing consumer markets. Cowboy boots and hats are big sellers in Austin, Texas, but are sold only tangentially in Albany, New York.

Income is another way to segment a consumer buying group. The number of people in the market for a new $300,000 Ferrari is much smaller than the potential consumer market for a new $30,000 Ford. Even within the Ferrari-buying group, Hollywood, California, will be more financially viable as a geographic location than Hollywood, Florida, despite both areas containing a fair share of wealthy consumers.

Refine the definition of a consumer buying group further by psychographic factors that are often the underpinnings of purchasing decisions. People who were abandoned or ill-treated as children may have a psychological predisposition to products whose advertising promises the security of an intact family unit or “because you’re worth it” advertising messages. A person who grew up poor may be a prime candidate for purchasing luxuries like fine champagnes, expensive cars, jewelry and the like, whether they can afford them or not.