What cluster do you belong to?

In my master’s thesis I was examining the potential connection between socio-economic status of urban neighbourhoods and the health of the streams that run through them.  This was following up with what many recent studies have started to explore: the connection between socio-economic characteristics of neighbourhoods and ecological variables (plant and bird diversity, realized stewardship, soil nutrients).

As part of my research I used a database called PRIZM (Potential Rating Index for Zip Markets) – which creates a standardized set of market and demographic “cluters” based on basic Statistics Canada data (age, employment, income, education, etc), the Statistics Canada Survey of Houehold Spending, and data collected at the checkout counter (i.e. “Can I have your postal code”).  The data is reported at the Dissemination Area level (the smallest you can get for Stats Canada data) which is approximately 200-400 people. 

The data was useful.  For my purposes I was able to use the Household Expenditure Potential (HEP) for different products and services (i.e. gardening and fertilizers) and measures of income to compare lifestyle choices to water quality in streams.

However, the real fun of this data is perusing the clusters to see how groups of people are broken down.  It is fun to show people how marketing programs delineate them from other “market clusters”… the clusters also have ridiculous names (i.e. Traditional Times, Bohemian Mix, Blue Blood Estates).

In one of the more trendy neighbourhoods in Montreal, Mile End, I found the “Active Youth” cluster, characterized as follows:

They are categorized as young, downscale, and transient; Many of them are students or young people getting a start on life; Over half are bilingual; Although many have degrees, they usually make around $40,000 a year, and live in less-expensive housing.
This group enjoys physical activity and makes their money spread so that they can go to concerts, art galleries and trendy cafes.  This cluster is also characterized as liking to entertain at home with take-out food and wine, and they like to discuss politics as they often reject authority, support civil disobedience and believe in sexual permissiveness.
You can see the perversely fun game in this data.  Our lab only bought the licence for the island of Montreal, but I think it would be fun to see how the different neighbourhoods in Regina are characterized for marketers.
Although this is for the U.S. you can play with putting in zip codes and seeing what pops up (the photos and descriptions are always interesting) here.  It will also show you the social and lifestyle groupings – equally interesting.
You can also find a list of all of the clusters in the U.S. here.
What cluster do you belong to?

5 thoughts on “What cluster do you belong to?

  1. wourliem says:

    Cool post Laura,

    I sort of hate shoe-horning ‘groups’ together out of shopping data, it suggests to me segregation of cities. I wonder how much stock is put into this data. Presumably, the viability of store locations and products could be, in part, determined by market data such as this.

    What I can take away from this is how important local businesses are. International chains, who have the capital to engage in quantitative market analysis (and pay other big companies to do it) might never come into the Regina market. For example, for high-end menswear a Holt Renfrew could look into the Regina market and determine that the “stylish suits” cluster (not a real cluster [I hope]) isn’t represented well enough. Yet, Regina has Colin O’Brian Man’s Shoppe, which caters to this market.

    1. Yeah – I have a love/hate relationship with this data. For my purposes it was extremely useful to try and understand the relationship between household purchases and ecological impact (the love part), yet it bothers me that every time we purchase something it is simply used to market more to us and get us to purchase more within our “type”.

      In the end, people should know that they can certainly say that they do not want to give their postal code at the checkout counter. I wish that info on spending and household choice could be found through Stats Canada… and perhaps Stats Canada needs to get more specific with their data collection (more specific info is better for research).

    1. I will get right on this… in the next few weeks I’ll provide more info about my study, etc. Especially since it was just recently accepted for publication!

      Thanks for your interest in these topics!

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