We have a few mantras at our marketing firm. One in particular seems to come up over and over again with our clients: “It’s not about us. It’s about them.” We say this to remind everyone that our advertising efforts and other marketing tactics are designed to resonate with our target and it doesn’t matter if we like the ideas or not. I’m sure you’ve encountered situations like these before:
So how do you respond to or avoid these types of comments? No, the answer isn’t “concept testing.” Concept testing rarely provides accurate insights because there is no way to test an idea outside of its real environment devoid of other influences. Consider this: If you post a TV ad on a survey website and ask a guy aged 25–34 to tell you what he thinks, he’ll feel obligated to offer commentary whether he really thinks that way or not. If he’s watching a close football game with his buddies at home and sees this same TV ad during a fourth quarter commercial break, he will have a much different reaction to it. His reaction at home will be genuine and there’s no way to document it or capture his real feelings.
- You present the marketing plan to your boss and she says, “I don’t have time to read magazines and I’m sure no one else does, so we shouldn’t run magazine ads.”
- Your colleague says, “My wife will hate that. We need to come up with something else.”
- Your receptionist overhears an ad concept presentation from your agency and later stops by your office to say, “I know the agency likes that new TV commercial, but I have to tell you that I don’t think it’s that funny.”
So if you can’t rely on concept testing, what do you do? Well, you must get to know as much about your target as possible BEFORE you develop ideas for ads. Beyond knowing your target’s age, gender, and household income, you also want to discover as much as possible about his lifestyle, behavior, attitudes, perceptions, wants and needs.
You want to get to know him like a real person, like a friend. If you know your target like you know a friend, you will be able to have a much better “conversation” with him via your advertising messages and other marketing tactics. Knowing your target like a friend allows you to talk about things that are meaningful to him; to say things that he finds charming, or funny, or even touching.
The best way to develop this deep target insight profile is through research and should include a variety of methodologies, if possible. Some of our favorite information-gathering tools include:
So in a nutshell, the best defense against concerns about your marketing plans is a good offense — understanding as much as possible about your target in human terms prior to developing any tactical solutions. Having this information at the ready will allow you to effectively explain to those that disagree with you why you made the decisions you did, and give you the confidence you need to successfully go to market.
- In-person interviews
- Segmentation studies
- Online discussion boards
- Ethnographic investigations
- Existing customer database analysis
- Consumer insight studies
- Media utilization studies
- Secondary research reviews
Emily K. Howard, a marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.
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