Think you intuitively know your audience? Think again.
By Anna-Marie Montague, Senior Writer/Strategist, PCI.
You’re Not the Target Audience…and Neither Am I
It’s a scenario as familiar as a slasher plotline – and just as chilling:
“We don’t need any testing,” the client announces. “We know our market.”
“Besides,” she stresses, “you’ve done this a hundred times, and worked with scores of companies like ours – right?”
Let’s assume the client and my company do have great understanding of their clients… what could go wrong?
What We Know About an Audience in Situation A We May Not Know for Situation B
Organizations moving in new directions may assume “established” audience preferences carry over. But an audience survey for a different service line, or audience experience in a different geography, can be more dead wrong than useful.
What We Knew About the Audience Could be Irrelevant
Audience needs, demands, and expectations are fluid; where and how you reach and influence any audience is in near constant flux. No one can reliably extrapolate yesterday’s strategies to today’s markets and audiences.
The Audience May Not Be Who We Think It Is – or Want It To Be
Your presumed or hoped-for audience may not actually be the optimal target. Consider how Toyota (repeatedly and expensively) promoted the Scion brand to young drivers… to belatedly concede that boomers were the sweet spot for much of the line.
Perception Isn’t Reality
Even the most astute clients and most expert marketing professionals come with a full complement of personal biases and filters.
Consider how the audiences we “should” know best – the spouses, SOs, and families we love and live with – so consistently amaze and confound us.
Being human as well as expert, we recognize/know what we like – and project those preferences.
Which brings us to….
We Are REALLY not the Audience
It’s often the creative concept or messaging that appeals least to marketing professionals and their clients that sings to an audience.
To wit: All my experience and marketing instincts scream that a family of anthropomorphic bears with a butt crumb fixation is the worst concept imaginable for a personal care product.
Which is why I’m certain P&G’s agency audience tested the hell out of those execrable bears – who have kept Charmin rolling for nearly 15 years.
And no, I didn’t like Mr. Whipple, either.
Why Not Test?
When audience conversations are quicker, cheaper, and easier than ever, why would any organization commit to significant internal and agency spends – without even an audience pulse check?
Sometimes it’s skepticism. Colossal failures of market testing – despite presumably top-tier research – make great news. Think “New” Coke – or Google’s social media forays before Google+. Research is fallible – but it gives you a shot, over a shot in the dark.
More often the driver for “no research!” is misplaced frugality – or a hidden agenda.
It’s hard enough to gain traction for digital buys or media spends – much less testing, with its intangible and untrackable ROI. Yet very modest investments in stakeholder interviews or online surveys can save major expenses for a branding do-over or campaign course correction.
Often the elephant in the room is a decision maker who’s already decided. Testing results aren’t likely to turn that ship. But at the least, testing can help achieve the best results from a choice that may not be optimal – or enable tweaks that move the strategy closer to course.