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Gesellschaft fŘr internationale Marktforschung und Beratung mbH
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The basis for professional target group management

The SIGMA Milieus«

Consumers are becoming increasingly selective, critical and unpredictable. Even if all agree: Is this really true? Or are our markets at a point now, where reaching product requirements isn’t the only objective any longer, but attaining quality standards has become equally important? Today, more than ever before, brand preferences and purchase decisions are influenced by each individual’s personality, values and attitude towards life: You buy, what you can identify with.
Yet, when defining target groups, these factors which weigh heavy in terms of consumer choices are not seldom neglected. And even if everybody once again agrees that demographic characteristics of people don’t suffice, in reality, most don’t go any further than analyzing demographic factors.
SIGMA Milieus« reflect the psychological predisposition of customers and link them to the acceptance or rejection of products and makes.
Not only have the various Milieus remained stable over time, but ,above all, they have proven to be highly selective.
The consumer cultures which are defined by the Milieus can be found the world over: SIGMA offers the SIGMA Transnational Consumer Cultures« for Europe and the corresponding models for the US, Japan and Mainland China.

The Social Milieu approach

Woody Allen and Sylvester Stallone bear a strong resemblance - at least if one is to believe traditional socio-demographic target group systems referring merely to variables such as sex, age, education or income. After all, aren't they both roughly the same age, male and in the same line of business? And yet: doesn't it seem practically out of the question that these two would have the same taste, buy similar products or even eat in the same restaurant? In today's world, demographic criteria is not sufficient to explain consumer behavior.
To know one’s target group today, means to know,
  • which habits,
  • environmental conditions,
  • which basic attitudes, motivations and needs
influence their individual attitudes. If one chooses to ignore this kind of information, one will not be able, in most cases, to satisfactorily determine why one’s own product is either preferred or rejected, for which lifestyle the make’s positioning is suited, where there’d be chances for growth, and from where one would have to expect risks. Furthermore, the intensity of product usage, which is often mentioned in addition to demographics in order to describe target groups, can only marginally reflect the chances for growth or erosion.
Because more than ever (this too is general knowledge) market preferences respectively the act of purchasing reflects the buyers’ attitudes towards life, their social and political values (e.g. environmental and health consciousness), their desire to set themselves apart, or conform to others, expressing the identification with either certain specified- or their own demands, their commitment to pleasure or the desire to object. Today it is even possible to chose among low price offers.

SIGMA Milieus« correspond with subjective every day life worlds:

The act of purchasing is influenced by an entire network of different aspects.

The “Social Milieus” research approach, which has been, to a large extent, co-developed by J÷rg Ueltzh÷ffer, one of the two founders of SIGMA, systemizes this diversity of everyday life worlds. Milieus describe people and their specific attitudes and life orientations, and outline social groups, whose value orientations, goals in life, lifestyles – and thus also their basic method of consumption – are sufficiently similar. The goal of the milieu analysis is to “paint a complete picture” of people, as a network of many different influences, which, analyzed independent from each other, could never adequately describe behavioral attitudes.
The starting point for these ideas, was to give the customer the possibility to display his subjective reality without any external influences and the most amount of freedom. He himself gets to describe what is important in his life, what only interests him marginally, - or doesn’t interest him in the least. He describes the every day life world from his point of view, opens the door to his apartment to show us what his subjective reality actually looks like, and through that forms a basis for the development of “statement clusters” with which one can then produce individual research segments („SIGMA Milieus“).
Measuring social status against basic value orientation has proven to be an optimal way to depict these milieus. Here, the social statusvalue orientation, depicted on the horizontal x-axis, represents the textual classification of the social groups, like different lifestyles, desires and goals, spirituality/religion, attitudes towards work, efficiency and much more describes the formal classification as a summery of the objective (mostly demographic) characteristics, e.g. level of education, job, income etc. The .

SIGMA Milieus«:

Target groups which are highly selective and dependable.

In Germany Milieus are derived from this, which, over time, have proven to be stable and clearly distinct from each other. A currently commissioned study has proven this once again: Here 2000 people in Germany, which were interviewed and classified in regards to their milieus in 1999/2000, were once again contacted 5 years later, once again classified according to their respective milieu and at the same time were asked about changes that had taken place in their lives. Luckily, more than four fifth of those who were contacted participated. As was to be expected, people’s circumstances in life had drastically changed: People got divorced, since had to tackle unexpected economic problems or had gotten ahead further in their careers than expected, were single again or had since bought a house with a garden and had started a family. And still: Roughly Ÿ of the people in question remained completely stable in regards to their value orientation and their place in the respective SIGMA Milieu«, the others for the most part into the closely neighboring milieus. It was interesting though, that most of the milieu switches occurred in the direction of modern milieus, thus these individual milieu switches reflected the general modernization process in society.
The fact that, over time, people continuously are part of specific milieus, as well as the stability of the milieus, does not only prove the practical relevance of this model (people do don’t change their general view of life on a yearly basis) but is also the prerequisite to serve as a marketing basis for ongoing product development: Non one can build target groups, which continuously change in terms of complexity and interpretation. On the other hand, the continuity of model and method is also a prerequisite for being able to detect anomalies and changes in attitudes and behavior quickly, and with a high degree of certainty.
Yet, this doesn’t mean that for the sake of continuity, statements that are defined at a certain point remain unchanged for decades as a matter of principle. Quite to the contrary – stability requires a continual examination of relevance and/or the reflection “reality”, and if needed, careful adaptation.

SIGMA Milieus« international und intercultural:

Observing others has always helped in finding oneself.

Already in the early 90s it became apparent that the purely German view of society allowed for the definition of status, yet was not able to deliver adequately dependable prognoses. Being able to recognize trends in such a timely fashion that a business can react to them with adequate offers, means they have to be detected as early as possible. This in turn means being able to determine even the smallest deviation in behavior as a future norm – a task bearing a great potential for error. This kind of risk can be reduced if these (still) small deviations can be observed in other countries as well, or have already evolved.
Thus the model of the social milieus was expanded by SIGMA initially to include all of Europe, followed by the US, Asia (Japan, SEA, MAINLAND China, Taiwan), Australia and South Africa.
The global segmentation of markets has led to the definition of “SIGMA Transnational Consumer Cultures«“ in Europe, and corresponding models for the US, Japan and Mainland China. The trick here was to understand that in all 4 major cultures comparable value structure can be depicted, even if they can’t be defined through a row of identical statements or identical lifestyles. The postmodern Japanese operationalizes his values according to his cultural tradition, local lifestyles and certainly to the given possibilities, just like the post modern American will present himself differently than the German one according to his social upbringing and environment. It is of deciding importance to recognize the common value structure, and thus the socio culturally related target groups beyond national and regional boundaries, without forgetting to take into consideration the necessary information regarding national and regional peculiarities which are important to marketing decisions. The model for the intercultural formation of milieus is being continually updated since 1996 and regularly quantified.
SIGMA Milieus«Modernes Arbeitnehmermilieu:
Young, flexible, and as eager consumers. This is how the members of this segment see themselves. But be careful! There is no milieu...
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