Expenditure on media is the largest expense of a brand’s marketing effort, and dare I say it? It’s possibly the most critical.
Campaigns that don’t distribute messaging to enough of the right people can determine the failure or success of brand growth and business profitability.
If this sounds over-simplistic, we need to remember that determining who the right people are, and the definition of brand’s target market needed to plan effective targeting strategies, has completely changed in recent years.
In days gone by, the prevalent wisdom was that we should spend a large amount of planning and research time understanding the specifics of our brand-user profile.
- How did they differ from competing brand-users?
- Give them a personality or humanise this idealised brand loyalist/advocate etc.
- Then allocate media that would reach this segment
This practice evolved because of the popular rhetoric at the time, that claimed that it was way more efficient and effective to retain customers, rather than acquire new ones. Ratios such as 5:1 were the popular numbers used by most marketers.
Promiscuous buying vs polygamous behaviour
So, most strategies were guided by this understanding and aimed at talking to the ‘loyal’ (or heavy customers) in an effort to keep them loyal over time (lifetime value), and reduce promiscuous buying behaviour (something we now know is actually not promiscuous, but unavoidable polygamous behaviour).
Thanks mainly to the increasing knowledge about the fundamentals of human behaviour, we now know for sure that this approach to ‘targeting’ could spell suicide for a brand.
People are naturally curious; they bore easily and they crave variety. We have some favourite brands in each category that we could buy slightly more often, but mostly we switch between competing brands.
On aggregate, the vast majority of people buy your brand sometimes, but generally buy other competing brands on as many occasions.
In essence, the evidence is indisputable – all brands grow mostly by attracting new and light users from the category – i.e. acquiring more customers, rather than spending a disproportionate amount of money trying to retain the small number of heavy buyers.
Preaching to the converted
The irony is that talking to the ‘heavies’ is actually about preaching to the converted. They already buy you quite often, so it is unlikely that they will devote more sales to your brands.
Smart targeting is now about understanding the ‘category buyer’ i.e. coffee drinker vs Nescafe coffee drinkers. Plan to reach all category buyers from the lightest to the heaviest.
Segments do exist, but all segments are your potential target market. It’s about understanding each of them and their reason for buying the category, and then finding ways to intercept these purchases in meaningful ways.
As a rule of thumb, look for media that delivers large unduplicated and relevant audiences first, then add smaller niche channels, should budget allow.
Mass reach of potential new and infrequent buyers of your brand, are your most important target market when planning media.
Gone are the days (or they will be soon) where media is evaluated simply on efficiencies of reach/frequency and impact metrics! This narrow definition of effectiveness is quickly being replaced by the measurable contribution to business outcomes, such as sales, profit and increases in market share.
Growth comes from increased propensities from all available category buyers (not an idealised profile of your user) targeting all of them with your messages will play a key role in helping with these objectives.
Gill Randall is CEO of SPARK Media. She began her career with Caxton in 1982, quickly rising through the ranks of direct advertising sales, direct advertising manager, national sales and then managing director of NAB (National sales for Caxton local papers) – a position she held for over 20 years. In July 2016, she became the CEO of Spark Media.
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