CAMBRIDGE, MASS: Marketers can identify superconsumers by observing their behaviour in other categories, according to a leading industry figure.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Eddie Yoon, a principal at Nielsen-owned The Cambridge Group, outlined an analysis of Nielsen supermarket scanner data across 124 consumer packaged goods categories. This discovered that superconsumers typically accounted for 10% of a category's customers but a significantly greater share of sales of profits – anywhere between 30% and 70%.

Yoon observed that brands often assumed, erroneously, that as such consumers were already heavy buyers they were unlikely to buy more and instead focused on retaining their loyalty. But, he said, it was perfectly possible to increase sales by finding new ways to appeal to these customers.

Follow-up work had found the superconsumer phenomenon at work outside CPG categories, including big-ticket sectors, where consumers typically make just a single purchase.

"The trick," said Yoon, "is using broad data versus just big data, specifically looking across seemingly unrelated categories that are, in fact, related."

His research had established that superconsumers in one category tended to be superconsumers in nine other categories. And he gave the example of life insurance and standby power generators.

Generac, a supplier of said generators, relied largely on customers reacting to personal experience of a blackout. But Yoon found that its perfect customer was likely to be "a superconsumer of proactive protection". In other words, consumers who planned ahead for a range of possible eventualities.

Generac adjusted its marketing strategy accordingly and doubled its business over a few years.

Yoon noted that the reverse route could also apply. Life insurance superconsumers were not necessarily high-income consumers and they spent more on all forms of insurance, but this information was widely available. Insurance agents wanting to target for possible superconsumers might therefore usefully look for customers with standby generators.

Data sourced from Harvard Business review; additional content by Warc staff