Do Marketers Always Want Consumer’s To Consume?

In marketing we call our target consumers. Yet not all marketing goals or messages are about increasing consumption. Sometimes marketers want the target market to consume something different, consume less, or simply consume an idea.

Patagonia famously ran an ad with the headline “Don’t Buy This Jacket” on Black Friday. They sell clothing, but their overall mission is, “We’re in business to save our home planet. We aim to use the resources we have–our voice, our business, and our community–to do something about our climate crisis.”

Patagonia balances selling new clothes with its mission. For example, they encourage consumers to consume less by trading in old Patagonia clothes to be resold with its Wornwear program. They call for climate action on Twitter, and share conservation messages on their YouTube channel.

One video features Salvar Una Cuenca running to save a watershed. Another has an employee explaining how to repair a zipper to keep a jacket longer. The message is getting through. In a recent Harris Poll, Patagonia is listed as the most reputable company in the U.S.

Sometimes marketers want consumers to consume more of their product by consuming more but by consuming something different. An example is Campbell’s sharing recipes featuring their condensed soup as a key ingredient.

Campbell’s meets the needs of busy adults giving them quick and easy recipes that while increasing purchase of their soup. They send the message where their target is looking for meal ideas with timely posts on Pinterest like “Get hammy with your Easter leftovers.”

Gatorade is another example. They don’t want their consumers to consume more sports drinks during workouts. They want their target to drink Gatorade over competitor Powerade.

They position themselves as hydration for high school athletes by helping their target tell their sports stories on social media. They created a free app “Highlights” for teen athletes to capture and share pro videos of their best sports moments.

A nonprofit or government agency often wants marketing messages that encourage consumers to consume less such as a natural resource conservation effort. Right now many western states are facing severe droughts. They need marketing messages to get residents to consume less water.

Some public health efforts aim for no consumption. The Truth anti-tobacco campaign has used marketing to reduce teen smoking. In the 1990s, they used PSA TV ads to reach their audience. Now Truth is reaching teens on Instagram and Youtube to reduce teen vaping.

Other marketing messages encourage donations. The nonprofit Dress for Success targets women on Facebook to donate their professional clothes, talents, and time to help other women obtain opportunities and reach economic independence.

What other goals do social media marketing efforts try to accomplish for organizations, businesses, or clients?

To learn more on consumers, target markets and target audiences see “Are You My Audience? 6 Misconceptions About Target Audiences in Social Media and Digital Marketing Strategy.”

Are You My Audience? 7 Misconceptions About Target Audiences in Social Media and Digital Marketing Strategy.

A narrowly focused message stands out and reaches and motivates an audience. General messages addressing everyone get lost in the crowd. As a communication professional or student, you need to know the target audience for any strategy or plan.

How to determine target audience.

Usually, clients do provide a target audience defined by the various bases of segmentation shown above. Yet it is not always the right target. Oftentimes business people are good at their business but are not the best marketers. Even top marketers at Fortune 500s can get it wrong. If you don’t start with the right target your strategy will not be successful and not meet the objectives the client is hiring you to help deliver.

Remember that clients are hiring you or you are getting a new project from a boss because current efforts are not working. There is a problem to be solved. Sometimes it’s an SEO problem, sometimes a social media content problem, but it can also be a target audience problem. How do you know you have the right target?

  1. Don’t assume your target is your social media followers. A client for the social media agency BSquared defined their target audience as 18-24 year-olds. They had the most followers from this age group. Yet BSquared took the time to look at additional social listening data beyond the brand pages and social media and digital advertising data. They found that the next two older age groups actually accounted for 90% of sales compared to just 10% of sales coming from the younger group.
  2. Don’t assume everyone that could use the product is your target. Gatorade learned this shifting to a mass-market target of hydration for everyone 18-49 and sales declined 10%. The core athlete got the message – Gatorade was no longer for them. Further research revealed high school and endurance athletes made up just 22% of customers but accounted for 46% of all sales. Only when they focused back on these two niche audiences with fewer mass ads and more target digital ads did sales return.
  3. Don’t assume the people who use the product are your target. Proctor & Gamble’s brand Old Spice sales were declining. Additional consumer research revealed that women purchase 60% of all men’s body washes. For the first time, the brand targeted women as the audience for its men’s brand. Within a year, sales grew 125% surpassing competitors to become the #1 brand in the category.
  4. Don’t assume your target audience is current customers. When sales level off or decline marketers need to reach a new group of people that is not their current users. The market for two-door coupe cars has been declining for years. The Ford Mustang Mach-E all-electric SUV is designed to reach a new audience. Targeting current Mustang drivers would not be effective as the car was designed to gain EV market share from Tesla. In the first year of sales, 70% of Mach-E buyers were new to the Ford brand.
  5. Don’t assume there is only one target audience. There may be multiple target audiences that influence a purchase decision. Colleges know that parents influence high school students’ college decisions. Therefore, enrollment strategies often include a primary target audience of high school students with a secondary target audience of parents of high school-age children. Messages and channels must be targeted for both.
  6. Don’t assume the target is consumers of the product. Other audiences can be selected for corporate communication and public relations to manage company reputation with employees, investors, suppliers, regulators and the media. With the Crock-Pot ‘This Is Us’ crisis an episode of the popular show killed the main character in a fire from the brand’s faulty product. The PR agency responded quickly with a message to multiple stakeholders assuring the public that Crock-Pots were safe.
  7. Don’t assume the latest hyped up platform is your target. As marketers, we tend to be attracted to new shiny objects. If the trade press is hyping up something new like Second Life, Google+, Meerkat, Blab, Clubhouse, Ello, it may be good to check it out and experiment. But don’t make the platform your target audience pulling money and resources out of existing platforms that are generating revenue now. Not every new social app lives up to the hype like TikTok. TikTok’s large user base still skews much younger and may not be a good place to reach an older target audience.

Also, note that business to business (B2B) target audiences are usually segmented with different variables called firmographics based on company size, industry, geographic market, and business needs. A B2B target audience can include people with certain job titles, and members of professional organizations.

If you are a marketer at a business or marketing communications professional working for the business, it is always good practice to verify that the target audience is really who you think. You need the right target audience to meet the business objectives. How do you know you are addressing the right business objectives? Perform a Root Cause Analysis.

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Simply Treating Symptoms? For better digital marketing results ensure that you are addressing the root cause [Template].

Today we are awash in digital data. Something that will only rise as we saw a 70% increase in Internet sales and an 11% increase in digital marketing spending in 2020, which is expected to grow another 17% in 2021. This can be both a blessing and a curse. After years of working in the marketing industry, researching and teaching, there is a strategic mistake that I continue to see. It is the tendency for marketers to treat surface-level symptoms when there are often deeper level problems causing an issue. Michael Porter said, “Strategic thinking rarely occurs spontaneously.” Realtime 24/7 marketing data dashboards have not helped with this propensity for expedient remedies.

A benefit of digital marketing is that nearly everything is measurable. Google Analytics tracks over 200 metrics. Facebook Analytics adds another 100 and that doesn’t include your email, social media monitoring, CRM and POS software. A typical marketer can collect hundreds if not thousands of data points across digital and general marketing systems. Yet studies indicate 21% of marketing spending is still wasted resulting in inaccurate targeting (35%) and lost customers (30%). Added metrics does not equal added results.

With all this data it is easier than ever to spot a problem metric which marketers want to resolve as quickly as possible. Yet, the first problem noticed, such as a drop in website traffic, often doesn’t have a quick fix digital solution. It is merely a symptom masking a larger problem. This calls for some guidelines for marketing managers inundated with digital data. I suggest pausing for a root cause analysis that considers both digital and general marketing factors. Even though your symptom suggests a digital marketing issue, the root cause may be a general marketing problem that needs to be solved first.

With over 50% of advertising spending today going to digital marketing, it is useful to organize individual symptoms and problems into digital and general marketing. They usually require separate solutions and separate experts or teams. Below is a visual representation of a root cause analysis process for digital marketers. It is a modified Ishikawa, or fishbone cause-and-effect diagram, that outlines a process of asking a series of questions modeled after the Five Whys iterative interrogative technique. Like a physician, marketers can assess a set of symptoms to arrive at a diagnosis.

How to perform a digital marketing root cause analysis

Identify related symptoms

To start this process you or someone on your team notices the first symptom. Maybe a dip in website traffic is what caught your attention, but what else may be declining? You may find other symptoms that can help identify the cause. Perhaps your email open rate is down in digital marketing metrics and in your general marketing data you notice new customer signups are starting to slip. Most of what you find will be signs or symptoms of problems. Make a list and sort into digital marketing symptoms and general marketing symptoms.

Identify contributing causes

Start asking “why” questions for each symptom. Why is website traffic going down? Why is the email open rate declining? Why is the number of new customers slipping? Contributing causes can be internal and external. External problems could include digital marketing causes such as Google changing their search algorithm or general marketing causes such as a new competitor, competitor strategy, or availability of substitutes. Internal problems could be digital marketing specific such as a change in your content strategy or general marketing such as customer service issues.

Identify the root cause

Keep asking “why” questions descending through a correlated list of digital and general problem causes. The root cause process “Five Whys” indicates that five “why” questions can get you to the root cause, but it may only take three or it could take more. Eventually, your contributing digital and general marketing problem causes will lead to one root cause. The root cause could be a digital marketing problem such as a significant Google algorithm change or a general marketing problem such as new competition in the form of a substitute product or service.

Plan actions for each problem

Create an action plan to address each digital marketing and general marketing problem starting at the root cause. If the root cause is a general marketing problem of substitutes drawing away protentional customers, a new product positioning should be developed to address this target audience’s needs. Then contributing digital marketing problems should be addressed with a new keyword, SEO and SEM strategy. New content should be created with the new product positioning. If repositioning isn’t enough, a new product or new services may need to be added.

Without pausing to find the root cause you could waste time and money on a product message and digital strategy that is not relevant to the customers that competitors are stealing away. You could end up investing in general best practices of optimizing content with infographics, videos, and increasing digital spending to no avail.

Today Porter’s five forces of competition can emerge quickly and are constantly changing. Adding a new product or service isn’t easy or a quick fix. However, discovering this larger problem sooner gives you more time to work on a solution. In that way, your digital marketing metrics can serve as an early warning system. Early detection enables your business to pivot promptly saving wasted resources on misguided action plans.

Sometimes a drop in website traffic is just a technical website issue or it could be a symptom of a larger problem. A root cause analysis may not be a simple solution but it can reorient your marketing actions away from short-term survival to long-term success.

Flip the analysis to plan for an opportunity

Finally, sometimes there may not be a general business or digital marketing problem and you are simply wanting to take advantage of a new opportunity. Perhaps you are trying to reach a  new target audience group, launch a new product line or service, or move into new geographic territory.

To plan for an opportunity flip the root cause analysis and begin with the root cause as the intended end goal. Then work backward identifying general and digital marketing problems and symptoms that need to be addressed (adjusted or added) to help take advantage of the new opportunity.