LSMs Are Irrelevant In Townships

We think LSMs in townships are irrelevant. Now, before you go and call me an idiot. Here’s why.

The LSM system was originally designed to try and find a way of segmenting people without focusing on demographics alone. The current LSM groupings run from 1 to 10, and are based on ownership of specific items, each with a score attached to it.

Although we try to steer away from stereotypes within our society, in research we just love putting people in boxes. We box you according to all sorts of little arbitrary things like gender (who says men can’t wear lipstick?) and then try to figure out which box likes us more.

To a large extent, research and marketing budget constraints faced by companies have forced them to only focus on tracking the opinions of very specific boxes when conducting research on their brands and product performance. Insanely short turnaround times don’t allow for too much exploration beyond the top-level data, unless the company is willing to spend a lot of extra Randelas.

Don’t get me wrong; we are not saying that you should move away from segmented samples completely, or that you should now start selling Air Jordans to old age homes only; but maybe you should?

So why do we need to start by marginalising the LSM measure, especially in the township market?

Township Trends Fluctuate

Household dynamics in townships are very different to traditional households, with more extended family members staying together and contributing to the total ownership of objects in the household.

Township trends fluctuate in short time periods, so for example, where my house had carpets six months ago, linoleum floors are so hot right now. Consequently I sell my vacuum cleaner and move down the LSM ladder, even though I still have a floor in my house. Suddenly I fall outside of the target box, and my opinion gets lost in the research periphery. Should it really matter what I own if I use your product every week?

A lot of research time and effort is spent in making sure people adhere to our predetermined opinions of them, rather than their own.

The Story Behind Your Sample

I challenge you to tell me when was the last time you looked at the real story behind your sample. You probably went back to the research agency and asked them why they were three respondents short in LSM 5-7, since they were the target box, the only one that matters.

What is the alternative going forward? Well, great progress has been made in segmentation measures where whole neighbourhoods receive an aggregate score, based on their access to infrastructure. Although I think this will certainly help to design research samples that reduce the focus on LSM, I still think we are missing the real time connection with the township audience. We need to have a continuous conversation with this market, and identify trends as they happen.

Forget about my toys and my space. Remember, it’s all about the base.

Would you agree?

Let’s debate on twitter this via @BrandsLaduma or @Piet_G.


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