Some thoughts on LSMs, SECs, whatever socio-economic classification we use to segment and differentiate…

When recruiting for qualitative fieldwork, we have the obvious criteria of brands purchased/used/lapsed, age, gender, working status, etc. But LSMs/SECs are usually another important layer of selection, and are critical to the research and marketing process. We do need some means of differentiating consumers, for segmenting/targeting/consistency in ‘the kinds of consumers’ who we are talking to and about….but we know that these classifications are by no means perfect and can indeed be quite controversial, particularly when people have very specific views of how an LSM XYZ look/talks/dresses/travels around/eats/shops, etc!

We have the objective points-based ‘paper’ classification system, and then recruiters and supervisors often use another (more subjective) classification at the back-check stage (eg where they live, what they do, etc). But in reality, none of these are ideal, and we know that. Imperfect methods in an imperfect and constantly changing world.


And how frustrating it is when clients do not accept this person is LSM/SEC XYZ…because they do not live in ‘the right suburb for that LSM/SEC’, or because they ‘are not entrepreneurial enough for that LSM’, or ‘are loading the plate with too much food’ or ‘are too highly educated’, or dressed differently from what was expected, or do not drive the right [high end] brand of car, etc… All of these have been said by clients over the last few years!


We need to accept that people are different and often behave differently from how we expect, that nobody lives in boxes and we should not be labeling people according to our own preconceived notions. We also need to spend real time getting to know our consumers – how and where they live, in the real world, rather than from our ivory marketing tower!




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