Nielsen Prizm is a tool used by companies to analyze their customers spending habits, lifestyle choices and spatial patterns. Using their Zip Code Look Up feature, you can search any zip code to get some detailed economic analysis of the neighborhood. This is an interesting glimpse into how market research analysts view neighborhoods, geography and spatial analysis.
By running a search on this site, it will yield a list of the top 5 socioeconomic segments within the zip code, all playfully named monikers (such as young digerati, urban elders, heartlanders and old milltowns). They have pre-classfied all consumers as fitting into one of 66 categories with these colorful names and that you can search based on income, ethnicity, urbanicity and other factors to see which demographics fit what you may be searching. All market segment is classified in a matrix that assess how urban or rural it is on one axis, and how wealthy of poor it is on the other as demonstrated in this image.
For marketer and businesses in search of an audience, the value of this data is clear: companies can target particular demographics, find where new potential customers live and how they might expand into emerging markets.
Here is a sample zip code from Chula Vista CA.
Just a quick glance reveals that this is a fair new, wealthy and affluent community South of San Diego with a suburban population (this is a free version of the data, the paid version is more robust and easier to search). How is data useful for cultural geographers? What sense of place can we glean from this neighborhood data? How can someone map this data in a way that would be useful for a particular company? How could a community use this data?
I feel this data is highly useful, especially for companies. That does not mean that the applications always have beneficial results for our society. I’ll use the branding of food companies as an example. Many companies that want to target many audiences realize that their brand doesn’t appeal to all consumer segments equally. Business fix to the problem? Split the brand to advertise to distinct market segments and create an illusion of diversity and options in the supermarket, even if the funds will all go to the same pockets.