When deciding to market a brand, one of the first things marketers usually do is decide who they are going to target. While this step might seem to be a simple textbook part of the process, it should be done with careful consideration.
Why? Because it will define the rest of your communications campaign. With this in mind, we need to understand just what goes into a well-defined target audience, not the general ‘everyone’. For years, the terms demographics, psychographics, geographics and other types of graphics have been thrown around as the best type of audience definition. But what’s actually key to understand is when each definition should be used; any target audience should have multiple definitions that the marketer can apply where best applicable.
A brand objective needs a defined audience to understand how the brand will grow. Before you know who your audience is, you first need to know what your objective is. For example, if you are trying to grow loyalty among current users, you’ll need to know who your current users are – this is your target audience for loyalty. There are several ways of knowing who your current users are including internal databases, Nielsen home panel and Amps. If, however, your objective is to encourage consumers to switch from one brand to another, you would want to understand who your competitors’ users are, and target them.
What if your objective is to grow the category? Then it then stands to reason that both users and non-users are your target. In this case, it is also essential to understand why part of that audience is a non-user before you try and define them, and then convert them. It is important that we look at the consumers’ need for the product, as well as their ability to buy it. For instance, there’s no sense trying to target a large investment programme at a mass market without the funds to invest, or marketing a hair relaxer to a Caucasian market.
A combination of demographics and geographics should be used at this stage to ensure marketing and communication objectives are measurable. Often we can’t afford to target all potential audiences, so in this case, we need to understand which audience has the greatest potential and prioritise accordingly. Once we know who we are after, brands start bringing their target audience to life. Here psychographics, behaviours and attitudes start to come into play. These definitions are ideal to bring the brand to life.
In essence, we are personifying the brand in order to create a connection with this audience. This definition is critical when developing the creative and helps us understand the media environment that we want to communicate in. Often this understanding is what leads to great creative and media ideas based on human truths or insights.
When it comes to buying media, marketers often expect it to be bought against the info-rich target audience above but doing so could have several downfalls. These include an over-defined target audience (i.e. too small, cutting out your full potential), parameters that media cannot be planned and bought against and making a brand too aspirational, thereby, not reaching the correct audience defined in your objectives.
Based on this, we need to have a media buying audience which ties back to the brand objectives and defined measurables. Again, demographics and psychographics are critical to ensure the audience is measurable. Over and above the audience defined through objectives, it is essential to understand whether the audience is a homogenous one. A homogenous market makes for effective media planning and buying. After all, we target media habits, and if the audience lacks common media habits then it becomes very difficult and really expensive to reach them.
Let’s take LSM 5-7 as an example. This market, made up of 20 million individuals, is demographically and culturally very similar. This is why with one spot in Generations, you can reach 20%-30% of this target audience. And if you add a few more parameters to define your audience this number can increase further. This audience has homogenous media habits, which makes the audience easier and cheaper to reach.
On the other hand, if we look at LSM 8-10, this target audience’s home language is about 40% African language, 30% English and 30% Afrikaans. Now considering that home language shapes the media you consume, this makes the audience very difficult to reach. You won’t be able to find a place to reach 20%-30% of your audience all at once. On TV for example, a single spot will probably reach a maximum of 10%, if you are lucky, but closer to 5% if you’re also taking the need to buy cost efficiently into account.
So clearly, the more heterogeneous your market is, the more difficult it is to reach them, and more expensive. Adding to this is the audience’s access to different media. The LSM 8-10 audience has far more access to an array of media creating further fragmentation.
So the learning here today is that audience definition is multi-layered and each layer should be considered with care. Start by understanding who is going to help you to grow your brand. Use the tools available to us to understand this audience – whether it be through desktop research such as Amps or qualitative research. You need to find nuggets of human truths – and usually a combination of sources will dig these up.
Lastly, before media is planned, really understand what broad audience needs to be reached. Then we will be able to fulfil objectives and connect with the consumer.
Isla Stringer is group head of The MediaShop. This post was first published in the company newsletter, Shop Talk.
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