In the old days, marketers sought to identify a target consumer and would then spend millions to catch her at the right time, in the right place, with the right message. Success was like winning the lottery, you were never quite sure what you had until the results were in.
In the digital age, we identify a target market; bombard them with banner ads, online videos and tweets. If we get a good response, we bombard them some more. Has anything really changed?
The truth is that while media has been transformed, marketing practice has not kept pace. We throw budgets into different buckets, but the decision-making process remains much the same. You develop a theory of the case, test it in-market and then, if it goes well, do it some more. A true digital revolution in marketing has yet to take hold, but it has begun.
Who Is The Consumer, Really?
An often-repeated lament has been that we waste half of our advertising budget, but just don’t know which half. It continues to resonate because increasing marketing efficiency is an obvious and compelling way to improve profitability.
Conceptually, the simplest way to increase efficiency is to prevent wastage. By targeting the right consumer at the right time, in the right place, with the right message, we can get the most out of a marketing budget. In other words, fish where the fish are. Put your time, effort and money where they can do the most good.
In practice, however, targeting becomes more problematic. If 60% of your consumers are women, should you ignore men? If 35% of your consumers are 18-24, does that really mean that you should spend all your money on college students? A recent Catalina study found that over half of brand sales come from outside the demographic target.
We need to stop thinking about target consumers and start thinking in terms of consumer networks. Just because the daughter buys it, doesn’t mean the mother (or father or brother) won’t and beyond consumers themselves, there are advocates and detractors that can affect a purchase as well. They all matter.
Consumer Journey Or Drunkard’s Walk?