We've been thinking a lot about "the target audience" lately; more specifically, the definition of this group of people and how they are reached. Our conclusion? The traditional approach of a single brand message, a single-minded expression of the brand positioning, thrown like a blanket across a wide audience (typically defined by factors such as age, race and LSM) is rapidly heading for the "How not to advertise" textbooks.
The Way People Consume Media Has Changed
We're moving away from a more linear style of consumption where we're tied to a time and a place (think 8pm movie on a Sunday night) towards a far more complex multi-tasking (multi-layered, multi-platform) dynamic. This is where content that we're more interested in typically finds us or our external hard drives.
The Era Of Algorithms Is Upon Us
It's a fact - relevancy drives loyalty. Millions, if not billions of dollars are spent by platforms such as Google and Facebook on development and the tuning of algorithms that determine what information is served to you. All in the name of relevancy. Google became the powerhouse it is today because its search results were more relevant (read: accurate) than any others.
Facebook's EdgeRank formula exists to work out which content should (and shouldn't, such as that “friend” you met that one time in the queue for the loo at a nightclub) appear in your newsfeed stream. If we want our marketing communication to reach people in this new digital age, we need to understand the factors that drive relevancy (through the lens of these algorithms) and tailor our communications to suit.
Attention Is An Endangered Species
The "multi-everything" approach to content consumption means our time and attention is becoming more focused on things that are relevant to us. These things can be divided into "things I want to do" (e.g. watch a YouTube video) and "things I have to do" (e.g. mow the lawn). Either way, time and attention spent doing these things means less time and attention available for other things, especially brand messages that aren't relevant to us.
A new approach is needed: Think Small. Build Value. Earn Attention.
Identify Communities and Interest Groups
Rather than going far and wide, footwear retailer Foot Locker built a platform for one of the more passionate interest groups around - the sneaker heads (someone who is ridiculously fanatical about sneakers). Sneakerpedia was created to give sneakerheads a platform from which they can showcase their collection to the world.
People who group around a specific subject (because they want to) are typically very passionate and vocal about it. Give these people a reason to talk about your product or service by crafting something that's relevant to them and they're more likely to share it across their networks.
One Brand Idea, Multiple Expressions
Big ideas should be viewed as fertile flowerbeds from where a multitude of brand expressions can grow. Each expression of the big idea is tailored and tweaked to suit a relevant community or type of person. This means more relevant ideas that are more likely to spread across people's networks.
As the business saying goes "Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity". A rather lame marketing re-work could be "Reach is vanity, affinity is sanity". What is reach when your message isn’t relevant? Too many brands are fighting the reach war against competitors with far more budget. Money buys reach. Good marketing creates relevance and affinity towards your product or service.
The single, generic message across a wide audience will soon be perceived as lazy marketing; a “throw money at the problem” style of marketing. Marketers need to start believing in the power of agility. Yes, it means more work in identifying and planning for the various scenarios, it also requires huge effort in developing more ideas and managing the networks that these ideas are designed around. But that’s the new reality of marketing in the digital age, and nobody said it was going to be easy.