Understand Who Your Audience is Not

One of the most-discussed parts of developing market solutions is coming up with the hook, the special insight that connects a brand to an audience in a unique way. Agency planners, brands, and researchers expend a tremendous amount of effort finding target audiences to tailor their approach. But I’ve noticed time and again that it’s not just the understanding of who your audience is that produces results, it’s also the understanding of who your audience is not that allows for the greatest impact.

When we look at target groups, we often emphasize similarities within that group to the point where we ignore its members’ individuality.  For example, let’s look at a common target audience: moms with young children who are the primary decision-makers for the food and household products. Within this group, we have witnessed moms giving young children their smartphones while grocery shopping. Why do they do they do that? I bet many of you answered, “To keep the child occupied and reduce the stress of shopping.” But did you think of the moms in that group who actually use it as a way to teach their young child the names of various fruits and vegetables? Imagine how you would talk with each person differently, and what kind of marketing solution you would put in place to appeal to each. Your audience is comprised of vibrant, dynamic, evolving, and unique beings. By understanding who they are not, you can start becoming aware of who they are, while allowing for their variations.

Examining who your audience is not is a way to establish the boundaries of the audience groups can be creatively liberating, opening up a whole playground to explore unique interactions. It’s within this playground that new ideas and innovations are created that the audience discovers something they are attracted to and may not even know why. 

A simple way to consider the “not” is to take each of your audience’s characteristics —behaviors, mindsets, influencers, and values— and invert them. What wouldn’t they do? Who wouldn’t they listen to? In each case, it’s crucial that you understand why. Document it. Create stories using pictures or videos to be used as inspiration for the Strategy and Creative teams. Armed with this information, your teams are less likely to use their own personal filters and conclusions to interpret who the audience is. They can open themselves to a richer creative playground and develop ideas that resonate more with your target groups, simply because you understand who those groups aren’t. 

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