What Real Disruptors Use to Segment Target Customers and Create Iconic Marketing.

As a founder/CEO, marketing strategist, or product leader, you know that product success depends on effective market segmentation, advertising, and customer targeting.

In the past, marketers have relied on socio-demographic segmentation to group people based on factors such as age, gender, income, and education level. But while demographic segmentation has long been the norm, a paradigm shift has quietly taken shape right under your noses, and there is a growing recognition that emotions can be a more powerful way to segment audiences.

Enter Emotion Segmentation: part of the larger strategy of Qualitative Segmentation, the strategy of targeting audiences based on how they feel about something is what real disruptors have always used but kept away from public discussion and preying eyes. This approach is proving to be more effective than socio-demographic segmentation because emotions are universal and transcend rational boundaries. They go beyond current needs and necessities, creating deep memorability and lasting brand desire.

One standout example of emotion segmentation is Apple's iconic "Think Different" campaign that ran from 1997 to 2002. I remember this as my first-ever interaction with Apple. There was no iPhone back then. Macs were the sweetest candy, only seen in creative departments and unavailable to the rest of the agency mortals.

It was a time when creative departments were kings, and work was done with sweat and passion. It was a time when we used to gather to watch and discuss ads, and let their juices give us goosebumps. I saw the Apple spot, and it was the first time I thought, "This was built for me!" I was just a trainee, so the salary was a bit malnourished, but still, I said to myself, "One day I'll have one, even though this seems impossible to conceive right now."

That feeling stayed with me and created the deepest brand love I have ever experienced. It felt like they read my mind and knew who I was deep inside. Nothing in the world can create a more powerful connection with a brand than the feeling they build for your soul. Even after almost 30 years, it still makes me feel that this company builds its products just for me. And I love them for that.

The campaign was launched shortly after Steve Jobs returned to the company and aimed to rebrand Apple as a company that valued creativity, innovation, and individuality. The most famous ad from the campaign was "Crazy Ones" a tribute to the mavericks, the dreamers, and the misfits who changed the world.

The one-minute ad, directed by Chiat\Day's Jennifer Golub, with the voiceover by actor Richard Dreyfuss and featuring black-and-white footage of 17 iconic 20th-century personalities, in this order of appearance: Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King Jr., Richard Branson, John Lennon (with Yoko Ono), Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali, Ted Turner, Maria Callas, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Alfred Hitchcock, Martha Graham, Jim Henson (with Kermit the Frog), Frank Lloyd Wright, and Pablo Picasso. The advertisement ended with an image of a young girl opening her closed eyes, as if making a wish. The final clip was taken from the All Around The World version of the "Sweet Lullaby" music video, directed by Tarsem Singh; the young girl was Shaan Sahota, Singh's niece (Wikipedia).

But what made this ad groundbreaking was not just its celebrity power. It was the way it targeted people based on how they identified themselves and felt about the world. The ad didn't focus on the technical specs of Apple products or their prices. It spoke to people's hearts and aspirations. It focused on the emotions that people experience, encouraging them to see themselves as part of a tribe of game-makers and innovators who are changing the world.


To effectively use emotion segmentation, advertisers need to conduct qualitative research to understand the emotions that drive consumer perceptions, feelings, and aspirations. They need to understand better what their audience relates to emotionally, which can be achieved through surveys, carefully-selected focus groups, and social media listening. They can also use data analytics to identify patterns in consumer behaviour and create predictive models that can be used to target specific emotional segments.

By targeting people based on their self-attributed identity and aspirations rather than their age, income level, or the need to buy a computer, Apple created a campaign that resonated with people on a deeper level. The ad speaks to a universal human desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves, to make a difference in the world, and to be recognized for our unique talents and contributions. It also implied that geniuses are seen as crazy, which deeply resonated with many. And it worked.

The "Think Different" campaign helped rebrand Apple as a company that values creativity, innovation, and individuality. It helped turn Apple into a household name and establish it as one of the most valuable brands in the world. It created brand desire that lasted for decades and made their advertising budgets give ROI long after the company stopped paying to run the ad.


Emotion segmentation is a powerful tool for advertisers who want to create advertising experiences that speak to people's hearts and have a long-term impact. By targeting people not based on their socio-demographics but rather on how they identify and feel about the world and themselves, advertisers can create campaigns that resonate with people on a deeper, lasting level. Apple's "Think Different" campaign is just one example of how emotion segmentation can create impactful and memorable advertising experiences.

By shifting their segmentation and targeting strategies based on emotions instead of social demographics, advertisers can create deeply impactful advertising experiences and create brand desire beyond an immediate need. To effectively use emotion segmentation, advertisers need to invest in research and analytics to understand consumer emotions better and create nuanced messages that speak directly to those emotions.


In our world of constant advertising bombardment, emotion segmentation is the key to breaking through the noise and creating a lasting connection with consumers. By tapping into the universal human desire for recognition and belonging, advertisers can create memorable and impactful campaigns that inspire people to take action, build brand loyalty, and establish a powerful brand identity.

As we continue to shift towards a more qualitative approach to customer segmentation, brands that embrace the emotional targeting strategy and create advertising that speaks to people's hearts will have a significant advantage in today's cutthroat marketplace.