Marketers spend countless hours analyzing who their customers are and when and where to reach them so that they will ultimately make a purchase. This is the job of any good marketer. But how do you really know who your customer is? We all come into the marketplace with predisposed ideas of what we need, why we need it and how we will get it. We also all have different life influences and influencers that drive our decision making and opinions. With so many different types of personalities, worldviews and buying styles combined with the plethora of various demographics and household incomes, how do we target the right customer and drive sales and loyalty to our brands?
Marketers know that different ads will impact different shoppers and therefore often spend a lot of creative energy and money targeting specific groups. They create ads directed at men vs women, for the rich vs the poor, for the impulse buyer vs the bargain shopper or the researcher, and the endless possible customers out there who might just find some connection to their brand and make a purchase. The problem with this is with the million different types of consumers out there how do we reach the right one and influence their purchase decision? And can we create a brand story that is believable and authentic to them all? The answer is no. Understanding your own brand and the story it tells and then focusing on who will believe in it, drastically narrows your audience and creates a more targeted marketing plan. Of course you can try to market to all of these different types of consumers and cater to their different types of shopping styles, but ultimately you will spend a lot of money on people that will either never make a purchase or might even negatively impact your brand. Casting a broad net or nets and hoping to catch a few is not effective marketing and is a waste of your marketing dollars and diminishes your brand’s story and identity.
So, what to do when you think you have it all figured out?
You know your brand and the story you want it to tell, you know your customer and you’ve figured out a targeted plan to reach them, what’s next? As mentioned before, there are so many factors that drive consumers decisions when they follow your brand all the way to the final purchase. I think there are two main things to consider when marketing your brand story.
1. Do you understand your consumer (your audience) and their predisposed viewpoints?
Who exactly is your audience? What views do they have that influence whether they will believe in your brand story? We all have religious, social, political, educational, and emotional influences that shape who we are and what we believe, and those worldviews influence how we spend our time and our money.
Your brand will not and cannot fit every viewpoint so first you need to understand your worth to your consumer and whether you are selling them something they will buy. Does your brand fit their belief system, is it something they see value in, can they afford it or rationalize that they can because they “need” it? It’s unlikely you will change someone’s mind about something they adamantly believe in or don’t and trying to do so will result in a loss of time and money and unlikely in a purchase. So, determine who your brand identifies with and sell…. No, tell your story to them. Understand your brand and your story and most importantly who your audience is and who they are not and never will be.
But also, understand that your audience can change and will as the market is constantly influenced by new products, competition and view points that can change the audience or their belief in your brand or what they rationalize they need and want.
I remember being a first-time young brand-new mom and I was worried about everything from what type of car seat or crib was safe to whether or not I should buy or make my own baby food. Fast forward 14 years and I am no longer in the market for any of that but the young first time mom that is currently researching and shopping that market is faced with new worries and challenges and information that is different then what was believed to be true when I was in her same shoes. I am now worried about what information my kids are receiving and from where and online safety and the stress our young teenagers are facing today. I still care about safety and the healthiest options but look at the world and their world much differently than I did in the beginning of my journey as a mom. We change, our culture changes, the available information changes and the quantity and quality of products increases and constantly improves and evolves. So as a marketer we must change our story to match the ever-changing world we are marketing to.
2. Is your story believable?
Just as it’s important to know who your audience is it’s equally if not more important to understand if your story is believable to them. Are you seen as authentic and truthful, is your brand something that can be trusted and valued? People now more than ever are skeptical of everything. We receive so much information online, across different social sites and through varies media that it becomes hard to weed through what is truth vs false claims and lies. Being authentic and believable in what we are saying when we tell the story of our businesses and brands is critical to brand loyalty and sustainability in this marketplace. The good news (or possibly bad news, if you are one of those brands selling lies) is if you are not authentic you will quickly be exposed because you are vulnerable in our digital world of online reviews and the ability for people to comment to millions about your product or brand. This can be good or bad, we all want that five-star review and for people to say we are who we claim to be, and our product is exactly as advertised.
And your believability once again goes back to what people already believe in. They want you to enforce their belief system not challenge it. People need to feel that your brand represents something that is authentic to who they are and represents them. This is the starting point to grabbing their attention, then it’s your job to tell a story that is so believable and captivating that they cannot resist engaging and ultimately finding out for themselves if what you are selling them is exactly what they’ve been looking for or need. Some brands do this so well we end up buying stuff we never knew we wanted but it aligns with our belief system, captures our attention and excites our desires. On the other hand, I all too often see companies advertising things that I am predisposed to question and would never buy because I see through their false claims (false claims to who I am and to what I believe to be true). One example that comes to mind is the “health food” industry. I like to be healthy; I love to cook, and I prefer to eat clean healthy meals over processed premade ones. So, I question a lot of the products I see on the shelves at the store and when I read labels, I see through the claims these products are making about how healthy they are for me. The story they are selling is something I don’t believe in, but there are millions of people who do believe that (insert name here) bar is healthy and full of ingredients which will nourish them while also helping them control hunger and lose weight. They don’t care about the 22 grams of sugar or ingredients that are unrecognizable. People want to feel good about what they eat and if the packaging looks pretty and the wording is believable, they will feel good about their purchase and themselves, not caring or even realizing that they could have had a snickers bar and received the same benefits. Obviously, I am exaggerating. Well sort of. But the point is there is massive amounts of people who will buy that “healthy” product and be happy about it because of what they believe to be true. There is a reason why the health food / nutrition industry is one of the largest in the world. Many people want a quick and easy solution to their healthcare and many others want to believe it to all be true. It’s also fiercely competitive so the thousands of brands and products must sell their stories and make them believable, they must be authentic to what they claim even if it’s not really “true”.
There was a time when what was being created, how much it cost to create and how quickly it could land on the shelves or in the hands of the consumer was all that mattered. People came up with an idea, spent time manufacturing it in the best and most cost-effective way and then figured out how to get it sold quickly. Times have changed and are changing. Now brands must spend far more time thinking about how to sell that product and to whom will buy it. Do we all need a vacuum cleaner, probably, but we might believe in one brand over another based on the authentic story they sell us and how we think it will benefit us and we are already predisposed to know what we want which is our greatest influencer. It is increasingly important for companies to focus on their stories, how they relate to their customers and how to sustain believability and loyalty. Your audience will grow, it will change, and your competition will improve, you must have a well written story, be able to tell it and be willing to edit it as needed.
Brand development and creative content writing is something I am passionate about. I love to tell a good story and the challenge of captivating the right audience by understanding their emotive and rational needs. Whether you need help brainstorming a new brand, a fresh set of eyes in recreating your story, or understanding your customer and how to tell your story to them, I'd love to help.