Whether you’re aware of it or not, every brand has a distinct audience in existence to call their own. Now, it may not be love at first sight; your ideal consumers may need a little bit of time to get to know you, to play the field a bit before finally come around to what you have to offer. If you aren’t putting yourself out there - or if you aren’t putting yourself out there in the right places - you’ll never attract the right audience.
The particulars of your audience - the who, why, when and where - are very important for getting your marketing strategy right. These may seem like no-brainers to you, though. Of course, you know all there is to know about your target audience, right? Well, where once these questions had simple answers, the advancement of technology in media, as well as society in general, has complicated trusted marketing tactics. Media planning and buying is no longer a straightforward process, and defining your target audience is more vital than ever.
Today, we are going to reexamine what you think you know about finding and connecting with your target audience. This is Media Buying 101. Class is in session.
Media Buying 101: Class Syllabus
We’re going to go over these four questions together:
Who is your audience?
Why are you targeting these consumers?
When and where can you find them?
Advertising in the 21st century presents us with a two-fold challenge. The market is incredibly competitive these days, and consumers are being bombarded with marketing messages from every direction. Not only do you need to find your audience, but you must invest ongoing effort to keep them, or you won’t scale. Only 8% of consumers are firmly committed to their chosen brands, making the current marketplace a hotbed for potential growth as well as loss.
Lesson One: The Who
No, not the band. Your first lesson, the one that supersedes all the others, is: know who you are targeting. Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, I target anyone who is interested in my products or services.” That is far too general, though. You need to think beyond broad characteristics such as ‘homeowners’ or ‘stay-at-home moms.’ These consumer groups are huge, and you couldn’t possibly hope to effectively reach them all, at least not at first. Advertising to such a general audience is also expensive. If you want your ad spend to be as effective and efficient as possible, you need to define a target audience and figure out the best methods to reach them.
Find Your Niche
To find your niche in the highly competitive, diverse marketplace of today, you need to analyze your consumers and discover key things about them and their connection to your products or services. Find common characteristics amongst your group of buyers. You can look in these key areas:
Demographics: age, education, job, location, language, gender, etc.
Psychographics: personality, behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, values, lifestyle, etc.
Technographics: their devices, software, social media platforms and other technology.
Everyone is familiar with utilizing basic demographic profiling to define your audience; it’s media buying 101 to think of your consumers in terms of age, gender and socioeconomic status. But analyzing buyers based on their lifestyle and technology habits helps you further zero in on your target and gain a better understanding of who these people actually are. Once you’ve identified some unique common threads amongst your consumer base, you’ll find a clear niche in the market at which to direct your advertising dollars.
Think Outside the Niche, Too
If you’ll recall, we said earlier that only 8% of buyers had an unwavering commitment to their favorite brands. That means that 92% of humans who can buy things are at least a little open to trying new experiences. According to Nielsen, 46% of consumers are more likely to try new brands than they were five years ago. This is a product of the growing diversity and competitiveness of the market. This means two things: you can attract non-brand buyers with growing ease, and you run the risk of losing your current buyers if you aren’t careful.
When you consider who you’re targeting, you should consider your audience of current consumers - your niche - and you should look outward from that group for other potential buyers that will find value in your brand. Once you have a good handle on who your target audience is, you’ll be able to determine other consumer groups, “lookalike audiences,” that could also be attracted to your brand.
Lesson Two: The Why
Perhaps you are already targeting a group of consumers. That’s great. The next question to ask yourself is: why? Why are you directing your media budget toward this group? You see, the way we advertise to any particular audience evolves and changes as time goes by. If you’ve based your strategy on assumptions or determinations made in the past, you could be spending time and money with the wrong crowd.
There used to be one pretty homogenous group in America who held the vast majority of the buying power: middle-class, white families. Couple that with the fact that there was a whole lot less competition among brands, and the result was that most advertising was remarkably similar and pretty simple. Everyone marketed to the same group of people in the same ways. They spouted off the benefits of their product and explained how it was better than their competitors’, and that was about it. American consumers are not a homogenous group anymore and neither are the channels by which they receive advertising messages.
So, if your answer to the question, ‘why is your brand targeting this group?’ is because that’s what always worked in the past, then it’s probably time to take a hard look at your strategies and tactics to see where greater efficiency and effectiveness can be found. The correct answer to the question should have something to do with market research. Modern marketing relies on audience metrics. You need to be able to form a genuine connection with them and create a strategic messaging campaign that resonates with them.
Lesson Three: The Where & When
In media buying, the where and when matter a lot. After you figure out who your target audience is, you have to figure out how you’re going to connect with them. When it comes to the question of where, you have a lot more options than you used to. As for when...well, we still have the same 1,440 minutes in a day, but consumers can be reached during a lot more of those minutes due to the proliferation of media channels available to them and the fact that most consumers have a device with them from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep.
An important part of understanding your audience is understanding where to find them. Once you have developed a buyer persona based on a few key demographics and lifestyle habits, you can use this information to track them down on their favorite media channels. You have your more traditional avenues - print, television, radio - but new technology and devices has given media buyers even more options. Through search engine marketing (SEM), for instance, you can put your ads in front of buyers already looking for the product or service you’re offering. Paid advertising on social media platforms works similarly. These new options come with a lot more tracking capabilities, allowing you to measure engagement with your ads and improve your audience targeting.
The Change in the Air
Media channels have been continually fragmenting for a while. Television is a prime example of this. Where once there was only linear TV, now you have connected TV, video-on-demand options, over-the-top services and online video. With so many opportunities to catch your target audience while they’re engaging with media, consumer data will be more important than ever. Whether they are waiting for a movie to start at their local theater, scrolling through Facebook in a waiting room, streaming a live sporting event on their Smart TV or listening to the newest podcast on the way to work, data is the way to reach them. In the future, we expect market research to matter even more to deliver your advertising when and where it will have the greatest impact.
An A+ in Media Buying 101
In the past, when there was less competition and a less diverse populace of consumers, all advertising messages were very similar, as were the methods of communicating those messages. Each brand dutifully explained its benefits and why they outperformed their competitors in quality, price or availability. Successful media strategies today rely on forming an authentic relationship with your target audience. Media planning and buying experts play a valuable role in helping you connect and interact with your ideal audience.
As the media landscape evolves with the times, the marketing truisms that we believe must evolve, too. Consumers are more diverse than ever, and the market has responded to this diversity, in large part through technology and data. To sustain and grow the reach of your brand, you must know your audience and how to connect with them. It’s our job as media planners and buyers to help accomplish this. The Ward Group has over three decades of experience in planning campaigns and negotiating media buys for our clients.
We’re way beyond Media Buying 101; we’ve got a PhD. Reach out to us today and meet your new team of media experts.