A comprehensive message strategy model..

Taylor's Six-Segment Strategy Wheel


The Parts of the Model

The left-hand side of the wheel represents the Transmission View of communication. The right -hand side represents the Ritual View of Communication.

The wheel has a vertical axis. At the top of the axis are items that are of greatest importance to consumers, either though rational or emotional attachment. At the bottom of the axis are things of least importance. As you move clockwise from the 12 o'clock to the 6 o'clock position, the strength of the emotional attachment decreases. As you move counterclockwise from the 12 o'clock to the 6 o'clock position, the strength of the rational attachment decreases.

The Six Segments

The segments are discussed in a clockwise direction.

Segment 1: Ego. This is the "I Am Me" segment. Consumers buy products to say to themselves "This is who I am." Products appeal to the private, fantasy worlds of consumers. Consumers could have strong emotional attachment to any brand or product category. Typical ones would be luxury automobiles, clothing. Typical message strategy: User image.

Segment 2: Social. There are three sub-segments within: romantic, family and others. Consumers buy these products to win the attention, approval, admiration, love, and respect of others or to "pretend" they are members of certain social groups. Social/romantic products include expensive jewelry, perfume, candy, flowers. Social/family products include items you buy for yourself where family approval is important as well as items you buy for family members and their liking it is important to you. Social/other products include all the products we buy to win the admiration and liking of neighbors, friends, co-workers. These products make a statement to others, rather than to ourselves, about who we are. Typical message strategies: Use occasion, resonance.

Segment 3: Sensory. The sensory segments includes all produts where appeals to the five senses prevail. This segment is identical to the FCB Quandrant 4. It includes products that are purchased as "life's little treats" as well as ones that give "moments of pleasure." typical products include chewing gum, snacks, candy bars, soft drinks, costume jewelry, books, CDs and tapes -- anything that gives you a temporary emotional lift. Typical message strategy: Moment of pleasure.

We moved down the right-hand side of the wheel, moving from products with the greatest emotional importance to those with the least. Now we cross over the axis to products of least rational importance and move up the outside left-hand side of the wheel.

Segment 4: Routine. Household goods, laundry products, and personal care products generally fall into this segment. We tend to buy the same brand time after time because there is little difference in them anyway and we buy in a habitual way. Typical message strategies: Hyperbole, pre-emptive.

Segment 5: Acute Need. The need for these products arises abruptly. While we'd like to have lots of product information, the pressing need overrides the information needs. Typical products include automobile replacement parts (tires, batteries), cleaning supplies. Typical message strategy: Brand familiarity.

Segment 6: Ration. This is the traditional hierachy of effects model where consumers desire lots of information about product features, services, warranties, price. Much time is spent gathering information about and comparing alternatives. Typical product categories: a house, a car, where to go to college. Typical message strategies: USP, pre-emptive, positioning, generic.

Playing with the Wheel

You can enhance your ability to develop message strategy by generating possible strategies under each segment and then mixing and matching different segments. Here's an example. One of the simplest products in the world is bottled water. Water inside a container, not much simpler than that. What strategies might be used to promote a new brand or to promote water generically?

Segment 6: Ration. Think of all the rational benefits you might reap from drinking bottled water: It's healthy, it's safe. It's better for you than soft drinks or other sugary drinks. It's handy, portable, inexpensive.

Segment 5: Acute Need. When do people have acute needs for water? While hiking, exercising, running a marathon, traveling on an airplane, traveling somewhere where water supplies are not safe?

Segment 4: Routine. Medical professionals advise drinking six glasses of water each day. That's a lot of routine drinking and buying. Should you be drinking water at every meal? at every break? Routinely keep a bottle on your desk?

Segment 3: Sensory. How does a splash of water feel to a dry mouth? How does pouring it over your body feel when you are hot and tired? How about the sound of water being poured over ice cubes in a glass? How does the fact that it's CLEAR appeal to the eye?

Segment 2: Ego. What kinds of self-images and private, fantasy worlds exist for those who would drink bottled water? Have they just scored a winning touchdown and chugged down a bottle.? Rendered every note perfectly in a singing contest? Just scaled Mt. Everest? Finally finished that novel? Is is a secret passion? Do they store it in their private reserve? Did they just win the lottery? Or perhaps they just think of themselves as being healthy people.

Now start combining segments in two's and three's:

Social/acute need: What to serve when unexpected guests drop in.

Sensory/routine: Quench your thirst throughout the day.

Ration/routine: Drink something good for you at every meal.

Ration/social/ego: Others will note how healthy you look when you drink bottled water.

You can continue with combinations until you have exhausted all possible strategic alternatives.

Other uses for the wheel

Gather all the ads you can find for brands in a particular product category. Plot their strategies and creative themes on the wheel. What message segments are not currently being used within the product category?

Take a particular product category and see if there are marketing (product, place, price promotion) changes that could extend a brand or warrant introducing a new brand for a particular segment of the wheel. Joe Boxer's move to sell underwear via vending machines in airports and hotels, for example, extends the product to the acute need segment for forgetful business travelers.

What do you think of the wheel? Did it help you to develop a workable message strategy? Let me know by sending an email to retaylor@utk.edu

READ MORE ABOUT IT in Taylor, Ronald E., "A Six-Segment Message Strategy Wheel," Journal of Advertising Research, Vol 39, No.6, November/December 1999.

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