June 27, 2017

by Nigel Hollis

In a recent post I referred to the Admap article “How to grow brands by targeting the masses” by Gordon Euchler, Head of Planning at BBDO Düsseldorf. While it is well worth reading the article in full I want to quickly review my takeaways because they speak very directly to the marketing challenges brands face today.

One of the biggest issues facing brands today is that of cultural fragmentation. As Euchler notes the “social glue” of things like TV have been eroded. It is not that we are watching less TV, it is that we all watching different TV programs. Further, our ‘seek, skip and share’ mindset is reducing the social interaction across different groups, and creating bubbles of friends, influencers and media that agree with our world view.

From a media targeting viewpoint this fragmentation is good because it provides greater granularity to reach specific groups. On the other hand it makes it more difficult for creative to resonate across those groups because values, understanding and interests are less likely to be shared (witness the internet backlash provoked by many well-intentioned ad campaigns). So, unless a brand really can find a universal truth on which to base its marketing, more granular targeting demands granular creative that will speak to the different belief systems of each bubble. Enter IBM’s Watson because no human could produce all the different variations in content necessary to target all those different interest groups, could they?

Never mind whether the time spent training Watson could actually have allowed the copywriters to produce the variations needed, the fact that I learnt about the Toyota Mirai from the Adweek article speaks to the issues of targeting. I am interested in alternative fuel-source vehicles, I might buy one at some point in the future, I even searched for more information after reading the article, but I never saw the campaign when it ran on Facebook. It would seem I do not fit into one of the 100 targeted demographic and interest groups (but I will bet they reached a lot of people who already owned a Prius).

So how should the Toyota campaign have targeted me? First things first, stop making assumptions and, as Euchler recommends, widen the net to reach all potential buyers not just the people you believe are highly predisposed. Rather than tailoring messages to specific types of individual, Euchler, suggests targeting bubble of friends and influencers, creating a sort of virtual surround sound. That might still require variations in content, but it will be more likely to benefit from social motivations and sharing.

Euchler’s ultimate recommendation is that brands do not avoid controversy but set out to target conversations of national scope. As he notes, the conversation could be political but maybe we would all be better off if it was a conversation that had the potential to bring people together across divides.

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