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You can’t not TARGET

As if by miracle, the stars have aligned in the marketing firmament to spell out a single word.

It can be seen and heard across the land, from the conferences to the comments, the books to the blogs. It’s the answer to all our prayers for growth and profit.

And the word is ‘reach’.

All the themes of the day appear to congregate here.

How penetration is more important to growth than loyalty.

How most of your brand’s buyers are light buyers who buy your competitors as well.

How much those light buyers matter to your brand, but how little your brand matters to them.

How the path to brand building is through reaching everyone in the category.

Maximising reach is increasingly put in opposition to the Segmentation-Targeting-Positioning model of marketing. It’s conveyed as a stark choice - reach versus targeting.

All of which strikes me as odd. Because in marketing you can’t not target.

Firstly, obviously, targeting the category is still targeting. You may well be justified in questioning the value of segmentation to your brand. It all depends on how well it’s been done.

But deciding to target everyone buying the category is still a choice. What about people outside who could be tempted in? What about finding the data to do the correlations? What about the budget needed?

And what do you mean by ‘category’? The first step in any segmentation is to define the ‘world of interest’ as consumers see it. That may not be how Kantar sees it.

Second, every person in the category is not going to be equally open to your brand. If they are, your brand is only appealing to a category need that all those people presumably share.

What about the specific needs within that, the different expressions of that central need? Are you just going to ignore them?

For me, the most useful segmentations are those built around needs not people. That’s partly because people have multiple needs, often within the same category. But the problem is we always want to target people, so that’s how we always want to segment.

Thirdly, there must be some difference between your brand and its competitors. They aren’t identical. If they are, you’re all in trouble.

Even the meaningless distinctiveness narrative is built on the importance of a brand’s distinctive assets (colours, logos, taglines, characters, celebrities or advertising ideas). Those are still differences.

And where did those assets come from? Who designed that logo, created that character or came up with that idea? Was it random ‘creativity’? Or did they come from a strategy built on a defined target and positioning?

It’s a nonsense anyway to say brands are meaningless. All the talk of brand love may have convinced a few romantic fools they’re more meaningful than they actually are. But brands have meaning, the good ones do anyway, and that makes a difference to the target.

Helen Edwards has been writing about this recently. She calls it ‘loyalty at parity’. When all things are equal, loyalty is the tie-breaker.

So it has little to do with undying devotion. It isn’t even necessarily about frequent purchasing. It is simply a sub-conscious connection, a moment of closeness. But enough to make your target reach out.

That kind of reach I can work with.

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