How to engage a tough audience

How to engage a tough audience

As marketers, we’ve all faced the age-old question: why haven't our target audience responded in the way we’d hoped? Where are all those responses we expected to our latest campaign?

As you might imagine, a hierarchy of several factors are at play here. The primary point to consider is, are you really speaking to the most appropriate target audience for your product or service? For example, many marketers wish to position their brands as fresh and relevant by targeting the hippest of demographic segments - millennials (i.e. those born after the mid-eighties). But are they really the most relevant and potentially valuable segment for your product?

A much-neglected audience over recent years has been the somewhat less 'cutting edge' over-50s market. But if you stop to think about it, this particular demographic segment is often at the peak of their lifetime disposable income - they have both more free time and resources to fund their interests once their children have flown the nest. Compare that to the struggling millennial who is being bombarded by targeted advertising on all sides, but may have little in the way of resources to fund his or her brand aspirations. On top of that, you need to consider whether you are communicating with your target audience at the right time - are they currently 'in the market' for the product or service you are offering?

Assuming you are communicating with the most relevant target audience at the right time, then the next question to consider is do you have the right campaign proposition? Are your communications leading with a strong, single-minded promise that is both meaningful and relevant, as well as being credible to your target audience? The Guardian's Cannes Gold Lion award-winning 'Get the whole picture' TV campaign is an example of a strong proposition that resonated with its educated target audience. By coupling a gripping, cinematic execution with several abrupt and unexpected changes in perspective, it powerfully demonstrates the 'whole picture' campaign message.

Bear in mind though that in order to have arrived upon a strong campaign proposition, you will firstly need to have gained a key insight into your target audience - what motivates their behaviour and how does this relate to what your product has to offer? Without that specific key insight, you are at risk of producing a bland 'me-too' proposition such as 'the best just got better'.

In order to gain this key insight, it is useful to break your target audience down into key segments. But don't make the mistake of assuming this has to be based on demographics - after all many 50-somethings will buy a product for the exact same reason as twenty-somethings. Many brands have recognised this and have moved away from demographically segmenting their audience, finding that behavioural segmentation provides them with greater predictive power. In this scenario, a particular key segment may cut across several different demographics.

With an engaged and relevant target audience, other key areas of your campaign must align if you are to achieve your campaign target:

  • Creative – Does your campaign contain a 'big creative idea' that adds human interest and brings the campaign proposition to life? The ability to dramatise or demonstrate your campaign proposition is crucial to the success of your campaign.
  • Call to action – Did you provide your target audience with a strong reason to contact you, such as time-based incentives? Was your response mechanism clear and easy to follow?
  • Execution – When your campaign came together, was it appealing, focused and relevant to your audience? Was the right tone of voice used to speak directly to your target audience? Was it informative without being cluttered? Was it well-branded without being over-done?
  • And perhaps most importantly - was your response target realistic based on the message you were communicating? For example, if your proposition is relatively weak compared to your competitors then you should not expect a high response rate - no matter how visually compelling your campaign was.

With a clearly defined target audience, and a few simple steps, you can gauge whether you have done everything possible to induce a response - even from the toughest of audiences.


Find more on this topic in Rob's recent book, ‘Successful Marketing Communications’.

Rob Hardy Marketing communications consultant and author of 'Successful Marketing Communications'
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