Reaching your target audience

Who is our audience and how do we find them?  A common dilemma we get asked to help solve in the ever changing ways of media consumption. As researchers, we analyse markets and provide recommendations to our clients (who, in most instances are in a marketing or communications role) on how to reach their audience. Understanding the challenges marketers face in reaching and engaging with audiences is critical for us to ensure we deeply understand their audience and provide actionable outcomes.


Many of the marketers we work with are responsible for brand marketing (to broad target market) as well as products, or different offerings within that, to different (narrow) target audiences who make decisions in different ways. All with limited budget and a need to identify where to best target and what messages to use. But what if you could only choose one of those? The best reach with a product focused ad or an engaging message to connect and drive consideration to fulfill an underlying emotional aspiration?

I was thinking about the basic principles of marketing (of which there are many definitions), one being – connecting a product with a consumer to which it has a value, and using relevant messages to engage and connect with the consumer that is going to influence a thought or behaviour.  Firstly you have to find the person, then connect.

A recent Nudge podcast I was listening to spoke about influencing people with messages that resonate with them, that show how a product or service can solve their problems.

Take a look at the tertiary education space – promoting the overarching brand underpinned by its values, history and other equity measures, then adding multiple layers of program areas and course types. In contrast, selling a new innovative piece of equipment to the veterinary market where understanding business models, decision drivers, openness to adopting new products, all informs positioning and messaging. (Both with very different sales strategies.) Regardless of product, marketing is about promoting the benefits of a product and the ultimate value it will provide the consumer in fulfilling an unmet need or solving a problem. Not disregarding that sometimes its just as simple as a product picture.

Essentially, we need to reach the right audience in the right place at the right time with the right message in places where they pay attention.  The increase in digital media consumption over the past decade shows that’s where people are spending time but are they paying attention?  In the case of digital re-marketing this works well – I was certainly paying attention to the camping products that kept appearing in my Instagram feed after searching for a collapsible sink. A very rudimentary example of a product ad that serves it’s purpose with one picture and a ‘shop now’ call to action – not really much need for an emotive connection.

Quite often in our research we profile target markets by demographics because that’s how media is bought. But how do we translate the valuable insights from the minds of consumers into an ad that is constrained by a size and word count? The product takes priority and the emotive message misses out.

As we know, with digital advertising you have the freedom to target specific regions and demographics to suit the advertising budget. By sponsoring specific kinds of content, allows advertising on the types of videos most likely to appeal to potential customers. BUT in a digital advertising space where targeting is based on hard facts such as age, location, interests, family structure, and static ads are restrictive in creativity, it is difficult to include more than the product and a call to action. How do we get impactful messages across to connect with the audience?

The Nudge Podcast “finding the right audience” discusses how a once fragmented media market is now consolidating due to the monopolies of Google and Facebook dominating time and attention online and strict guidelines of what ads can contain.  Marketers are constrained by pre-form instead of being able to be creative they can’t get the message out of what they actually want.

We can profile markets on those hard facts to help inform media strategies but how do we engage, psychologically by understanding the psychographics of how to fill an unmet need? Without engaging, we can assume that the likelihood to click to find out more is limited.

So when planning research to understand your target audience, ask the questions to determine not just where we can reach them (where they are spending their time) but how we can reach them (what they actually pay attention to) and what drives them (to reach them emotionally). You only have a small window of opportunity to connect.

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