Is there a better way to think about the people on briefs than “targets?”

We’ve never been a fan of the idea of a marketing “target.” It sends the wrong message about marketing.

Our client Sandy Thompson, Global CSO of Y&R, says it is useful to think of how people feel when called a target. Not very good. Who wants to be a fan of someone who targets them? (Both Radiohead and author Douglas Coupland have highlighted this in works of art with the phrase “I am not your target market”).

The idea itself emphasizes “getting to” people more than what happens when a marketer’s offering gets there. There is an underlying “as long as it gets there we’re ok” story there.

And lastly, it implies the end of a stage in a linear process — “target reached” — left over from a media world dominated by buying. In today’s media world things are less linear, less bought and the process shouldn’t end with one engagement.

We prefer to think about and answer the question, “Who is this among?”

All marketing is about people-based change. This can be a change in attitude, behavior, strengthening a belief or completely changing the way people view a market. Whatever. Marketers make offerings to change markets profitably in their favor.

But marketers are not the only ones who have a say on how markets should be viewed. Marketers make the case for X. Friends make the case for Y. The news makes the case for Z. Lots of groups are involved.

That’s why “who is this among?” is a useful question to think about.

It drives conversations not only about the people we need to engage but also who else engages them around the same topic. This question focuses on key users and key influencers.

Political communications directors are very good at answering this question. They know people and issues have constituents. The press, specialist groups, opponents, academics, local politicians, etc. are all involved. Communications directors know they have to think about creating persuasive change among all of those groups to ultimately get the votes they are seeking.

Answering this question also helps marketers who want to leverage social networks (from WOM to “the press” to FB). Answering “who is this among?” not only describes the groups of people involved. It also helps explain why all the groups are involved and how they might (or might not) pitch in.

Finally, answering this questions helps collaborators work better together. Understanding the nature of participant relationships enables separate specialist craftspeople to come together and design an overall go-to-market plan in which different offerings are offered in different media to different groups via a complex and sophisticated sequential plan.

Our favorite example of this is Tesla Motors, who want to be the world’s leader in electric car manufacturing. Founded by tech entrepreneurs, they have a different take on how to do this.

There are lots of groups interested in a launch of an electric car. Gearheads. Environmentalists. Democrats. Republicans. Oil people. Design fans. The racing community. Exotic car owners. Tech millionaires. The automotive press. Gas retailers. Government green energy departments. People who want to decrease America’s oil dependency. The list doesn’t end there.

Tesla had a unique vision for success. They wanted to make electric cars that are the best cars on the road. Period. They wanted to offer sexy-looking, elite performance cars that just happen to be electric. Their vision was to emphasize the performance and looks, not the fuel efficiency.

This vision focused their answer to the question, “who is this among?” They didn’t focus on the green people, Democrats, environmentalists or even people who owned electric cars before. Their launch was among those who buy high-performance best-in-class cars and believe in the benefits of advanced technology — “early best-technology adopter gearheads.” That meant exotic car owners, tech millionaires, performance magazine editors and the racing community.

This focus led them down a path in which they 1) launched like a new tech innovations (Telsa 1.0, 2.0, etc.) and 2) constantly try to set new performance standards (e.g. Winning races, setting records, demos, etc.).

We’ve written a tool called “The Constituent Tool” that helps users think more broadly and imaginatively about how to answer this question. Our clients go beyond traditional influencer types to generate and filter groups who really matter and who are worth making marketing for.

"Is there a better way to think about the people on briefs than “targets?”" by Scott
Posted in Questions Collaborators Answer on Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
  • Wolfgang Eigner

    Aren’t they called Tesla Motors, after the famous inventor, rather than Telsa?n