Do you know your target audience?

  • Categories:

    Marketing Insights, Brand Strategy

  • Date:

    June 29, 2022

Do you know your target audience?

Marketing Insights Brand Strategy

When I think about the role of the target audience in marketing, I find this quote from Seth Godin sets the stage quite well:

“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

As marketers, it is easy for us to think we have more power in the process than we actually do. We must never forget that without our audience — the ultimate consumers — we have no business.

With this idea in mind, I brought together some of the brightest minds at Wray Ward. We discussed just how important it is to know your audience and how to bring that process together from various perspectives. Our conversation includes the marketing minds of:

  • Karen Bryant, Social Media Director

  • John Dasher, Media Strategy Group Director

  • Heather Dumford, Creative Director

  • Greg Edwards, Creative Director

  • Caroline James, Insights & Brand Strategy Senior Manager

  • Jennifer Voorhees, Group Client Engagement Director

Why is it important to understand your target audience, and how do you approach it?

Jennifer: Nothing will resonate if we don’t understand our target audience. Through insights and media research, we get a better picture of who they are. Gone are the days of targeting simple demographics; we have to understand their mindsets, motivations and media habits and how they consume media. Someone on TikTok won’t get the same message as someone flipping through HGTV Magazine. Different media require different levels of authenticity that we won’t know about unless we study our target audience.

Heather: Our team must communicate a message that resonates and make connections through creative choices. We consider which brands they interact with, the right tone and the right visuals to communicate our message. We have to connect with a shared perspective that’s trustworthy while breaking through the clutter. It’s a tough balance: You have to be aspirational yet authentic, attainable and genuine. Creatively, we focus on establishing the photography and visuals that will truly resonate with our audience.

John: Aside from goals and objectives, the audience is the next most important aspect for media departments to understand. It’s how you know what channels to focus your marketing efforts on. It’s all about reaching the right audience, at the right time, at the right place and with the right message. Reversing the order makes no sense, which proves the incredible value of your audience. The more personal and contextually relevant you are to your audience, the likelier you are to break through the competitive landscape.

In the pre-campaign stage, we research psychographic and attitudinal behaviors to learn which channels will be most successful. Post-campaign data is crucial because it’s a true reflection of audience behavior. It reflects the audience and their journey, and we can modify the campaign moving forward.

Caroline: For our Insights team, the audience is core to everything we do. We become the expert on the consumer, serving as their voice in the room and ensuring the message will connect with them in the right way.

We combine primary research and secondary research from a wealth of sources to capture the consumer perspective. All of this helps us unlock mindsets and motivations or drivers and barriers related to the brand or product. We need to know how to get their attention and make them care enough to engage with us.

Karen: For social media, it’s all about understanding what content provides your audience with value. Whether it’s meeting a need, aligning with an interest or helping them solve a problem, all of it helps us understand their needs. How you communicate is important. Brands that talk at their audience don’t resonate. It’s important to become part of their community by talking the way they talk, finding things that interest them and getting immersed in that online community.

We look for people who are talking about our brand or product, what else they’re using or issues they’re experiencing. Then we address that in our social media content.

It’s vital to listen to social conversations, tracking sentiment and what they’re talking about, positively or negatively. That feeds into more measurement. What makes them tick? What content didn’t work? Find what’s valuable to them, meet that need, align content with what’s interesting to them and position it in a way that feels as if they’re hearing it from a friend.

How can these different perspectives come together to create a unified approach to marketing?

Jennifer: All of our teams coming to the table with fresh thinking, grounded in a solid foundation, is integral to the entire process. Our Insights team helps fuel our strategy and aligns with our marketing objective and the plans that come out of that. Our ideation sessions bring it all together. We gather all of our teams, and everyone’s perspective brings incredible ideas.

The beauty of Wray Ward is that we don’t stay in our lanes. Heather may have a great idea for social media or something unrelated to her Creative team. A good idea can come from anywhere because we all have the same information fueling those ideas.

Leslie: We could simply do research, put together personas and throw them over the wall to the teams that have to work with them — and they might knock it out of the park — but that’s not the optimal way of working together. We find those internal collaboration points — maybe by sharing outcomes of a research study we did with the Creative team or with someone from Connections, or by having those internal checkpoints along the way to share what we’re hearing and learning.

As Karen said, once you get past the demographics, it’s about what is important to the audience and what is valuable to them on a product level. When you can get everyone together to talk about these things, rich thinking along common ground will emerge.

John: Our teams need to work together to create that synergy. Even if we don’t fully understand where each department is coming from, we need to translate what it all means to the entire team and how to take action.

Greg: Each brand’s competition is looking at the same personas, so we take those consumer insights and marry them to our brands. What is it about this brand’s DNA and uniqueness that truly connects with what we’ve learned about our consumers? We isolate those ideas and take advantage of them to create white space so we can talk to consumers differently than our competitors do. If every consumer is different, how can we hit on what matters most to them in a way that no one else can?

Leslie: Brand positioning and communications are rooted in what makes the brand unique, but they’re nothing if they’re not partnered with what’s most important to the consumer. Companies get so ingrained in their product and what they can do, but does your customer care? Do they care about some other aspect of it, or should we frame it another way?

It’s critical to think about the relevancy of the product and brand through the lens of the customer. That’s where the magic happens.

Greg: It’s so important to start with the emotional connections and move on to the rational connections.

Karen: Heather was talking about creating content that’s authentic and real, and I think that ties into the organic side of social media and what the audience wants to see. We’ll poll them in Instagram Stories and ask them which design they like better. We can take those design insights back to the full team and provide direction on what type of creative we want to use for specific campaigns to help reach our audience. That helps create content the audience is interested in and adds more of that authentic feel, where they say, "Hey, I’m seeing what I’m interested in from this brand and not getting an ad again in my newsfeed.”

The combined wisdom and expertise of this group are so vast that we didn’t want to constrain the insights to one article. We’ll continue this conversation in a future piece that covers audience intelligence and why consumer research must never be taken for granted. In the meantime, grab more great marketing insights.

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