Shall we stop targeting our audience now…

One of the most frequent conversations in brand meetings is about creating a connect, between the consumer and the brand. A connect that is emotional, deep, rich, almost human, with words such as loyalty, bonding, love used generously.

One suspects this is being discussed so much because it doesn’t happen much! Consumers continue to be transactional in their relationship with brands and easily move on. Sometimes for as little as a free promo offer, price off or 20% more in the pack.

Like jilted lovers, we in the brand world sulk, blaming the consumer for being fickle, wondering if all our investments in building the relationship had been worth it at all!

Given the quantum of investment brands make every year to build this connect, the blame for this failure is surely at the consumer’s end?

Or are we missing the whole point somewhere? Let’s pull back a bit and see how this looks.

Imagine if you were starting a new relationship, you had just met someone and were beginning to get interested.

How well do you think it would go if you sensed you were a ‘target’ in this equation? Your behavior was being analyzed and ‘stimulus’ – messages, reminders, promises being crafted and planted to make sure you were hit where it works.

Begins to sound sinister doesn’t it?

Maybe the very notion of a target audience is flawed. You don’t target people you wish to connect with.

You target someone you wish to hurt. It suggests that the brand and its message is an ammunition to hurl at them. Something they’d much rather duck! And so they do, whenever they can. Not very promising prospects for a deep rich human connect eh?

Is it just a matter of semantics, or does this actually shape the way we think?

In how many brand strategy meetings have you experienced a deep sense of love for your audience? How many focus groups or insights presentations have made you feel ‘connected’ with your audience? My submission, at its best, such exercises have been the equivalent of lab rats being analyzed by their observers. At worst, you doze off with your eyes open or without…

As the world moves to buzz, audience self selection and co-creation of experience, targeting is increasingly showing up as dated and flawed thinking. It creates a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and reduces humans to ‘targets’ meant to fulfill our …well, targets.

And then we wonder why we falter in creating a connect!

It’s time we started looking harder at the word. Who do we connect with and why? And if even part of the answer is ‘those who understand me like no one does, those who are there for me even when I am not at my best…’ we need a re-look at our idea of insights and brands.
Its time to re-visit what the great David Ogilvy warned us about long back. Then building a case for giving her more information, now just as relevant but in a whole new way…

The consumer isn`t a moron; she is your wife

Its time exercises in insights became efforts in understanding people that way. Time to make brand discussions more humane, empathetic and promises more real. The real investment needed in brand building is our emotions before the dollars.

To me personally, some of the most rewarding and meaningful brand exercises have been of this nature. Having experienced it, the very use of the T word makes me cringe like never before… And even though one experiences the emotional drain, the nervousness and everything that comes with trying to create this connection, I wouldn’t have it any other way


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