Do You Really Know Me? Do You Really Care?
Authored by: Karl Langston
One of the best reasons for global travel is getting to experience another way of living. Over the past twenty years, I have visited countries in Europe, South America, Central America, Canada and Mexico. This only covers about 35% of the seven continents, so I’ve got a long way to go before I can truly understand everyone’s culture. When a trip ends and I’m unpacking, many thoughts run through my head. “What was the best experience?” or “how can I incorporate their way of life into my own?” Being culturally sensitive is key in our globalizing world. It isn’t enough to say, “people living in country X are like this.” It is important to look for underlying values that may explain a certain behavior in order to practice cultural sensitivity.
Marketing theories about what “target audience” means continue to shift every day. Identifying and then defining preferred audiences like “Shopper Moms,” “Early Technology Adopters” or “Senior Brand Loyalists” are the priority during a strategic planning session. Brand managers know the importance behind these steps and ways to architect a new plan. However, so many mediums face a brand manager too. Should the message be placed on a billboard? Or, will a dedicated website do well for this product rollout? Because medium is inseparable from message, a major recasting of marketing models is essential.
How can we get to know the audience best? To fully understand, let’s go back and review some marketing history. In the late nineteenth century, brands began to gain prominence in society. Between 1875-1900, branded products like Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Budweiser and others emerged on the scene. By turning commodities into brands, larger market share growths were achieved. Today, virtually everything is branded, from universities to water to clothing and beyond. With the rise of branding came the rise of human consciousness.
Flash forward to 2016. What’s changed? Everything! Brand commodities are non-geographically bound collections and assert themselves as important marketplace choices. And, more important, many brand choices are made in global manufacturing sites that you know little about. But do we value where a product is made? Do we even care? As long as the consumer is happy with a product’s performance and availability, I doubt where a product comes from really matters.
Brand loyalists are powerful communicators. This power may be to the benefit of the brand marketer, as when community members help one another solve problems with the brand team. The opposite is true too. Consumer strength may manifest in ways less desirable. With conviction and strength in numbers, they can be a force of change that brand managers can ignore or embrace. Brand advocates tend to have very well developed ideas concerning the brand to which they are committed. Many feel they know what’s best for the product. Therefore, when brand ads are at odds with the brand loyalists, they are rejected and take to social media to prove their points.
So, to know me is to love me. Right? I’m the target audience, so now make the product that fits into my lifestyle. The lessons learned from consumers teach us how to communicate best and ways to serve by accepting their feedback. Recall a simple phrase and memorize it. Sell to a shopper, not a consumer.
Creative Chimps’s Last Word.
Marketing’s response has the opportunity to listen. New strategies can strengthen the brand’s position or blur the lines between consumer and marketer generated content. For example, in 2004, Ford Motor Company ran an ad campaign featuring a car killing a curious cat. See video here. The negative impact of this controversy was increased when the ad was attributed to Ford and its ad agency, rather than a SportKa car user. Creating a buzz or viral campaign has risks in planning and execution. But, can negative publicity be avoided? YES. If it’s offensive to you, it will most likely be offensive to others.
Sensitivity should rank high within the marketing team, or your target audience will let you know sooner than later. Every brand marketer commits significant resources to understanding how brands relate to a target audience, but should they have the same understanding that influence shopper choices? One simple response. YES!