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"Characterizing and Reaching High-Risk Drinkers Using Audience Segmentation"


Audience segmentation, a marketing technique which involves categorizing audiences by relatively homogenous groups, is a vital component of social marketing, but has rarely been used in the field of alcohol prevention. This study used audience segmentation to understand the characteristics of high-risk drinkers (defined as having 5 or more drinks per occasion at least twice in the last 30 days), including  their  lifestyle, interests, consumer behaviors, and cultural values. The information on these segments can be used to develop public health communication campaigns, prevention activities, and interventions that effectively target specific populations and attenuate their high-risk drinking behaviors.

Key Findings

This study linked proprietary audience segmentation data (the PRIZM™ database) to epidemiological survey data (from the Center for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)), resulting in 66 audience segments.

The segment that is most inclined to engage in high-risk drinking is referred to as the “Cyber Millenials.” Cyber Millenials are over 2 times more likely to be high-risk drinkers than the national average. Considered “tech-savvy, affluent, highly educated, and ethnically-mixed,” Cyber Millenials are more likely to live in “fashionable neighborhoods.” They own PDAs, shop on the internet, exercise at a gym, and more likely to listen to jazz, classical, alternative radio, and news/talk radio stations.

Another high-risk drinking segment is referred to as the “Metro Newbies.”   Not surprisingly, Metro Newbies have 10 times as many college students as the national average Individuals that belong to this group are mostly young, multi-ethnic singles that rent cheap apartments located in areas with bars and cafes that cater to “twenty-somethings.” They are more likely to listen to alternative radio or stations on college football and basketball. For exercise, Metro Newbies participate in yoga or go jogging.

Implications for Prevention Practice

This study serves as a reminder to prevention professionals that marketing techniques, such as audience segmentation, can be applied to prevention strategies (for instance, social marketing campaigns). There are at least two major benefits of applying audience segmentation to prevention work. Segmenting can help determine which subpopulations to target, and then provide useful data on preferences, values, and lifestyles of the individuals in these subpopulations. By viewing individuals as “consumers,” in this context, we can create appealing messages, using language, design and placement that will resonate with high-risk drinking audiences.

Bibliographic Reference

Moss, H.B., Kirby, S.D., & Donodeo, F. (2009). Characterizing and Reaching High-Risk Drinkers Using Audience Segmentation. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (ACER), 33, 1336-1345.

Access to Article

Interested in reading the entire article? You can purchase the article through ACER, or download for free if you have a subscription. link to article