Whilst driving home this week an advertisement on the back of a bus caught my attention and not because of its smart positioning, but because it completely demonstrated the brand’s lack of understanding of its target audience and relevance in today’s world.
The ad included images of a mobile phone and a touch pad device, but then offered the complete opposite, a book, as a solution to its customers needs. Although the execution of the ad tries to draw attention to what it thinks is an advantage for who would use their product, positioning a book next to the smartphone and touch pad device, it more draws attention to its own shortcomings; an inability to adapt to an increasingly technology led world. It also in my opinion targets the wrong market, as it appears to be trying to convince existing smartphones users that the technology has flaws and a book is a better option.
Even if the brand is targeting baby boomers, they have made an assumption about the interests of this market not engaging with technology. I only have to look at our own company, pure play online retailer, Appliances Online, to know that it counts to do your research and get the message right, as a significant part of our customer base is over 55 years of age. My dad never thought the business would work, he used to say to me who would buy appliances online? Well times change… and quickly, so retailers and brands need to keep up.
I would argue that our traditional bricks and mortar competitors would have a far better chance of success in advertising to their existing customers that have not yet shopped online or even to renovators, rather than trying to win back someone who has made a convenient, quick and well researched replacement appliance purchase with us. In this instance I would think that we would win every time, and so we should because our business model was originally built specifically for this niche and we have a clear advantage here over a traditional retailer.
Understanding your potential customers is fundamental to business success. If you miss the mark, you clearly need to go back to the basics.
Researching the right channels to reach your target market — not every channel will be worth the investment to connect with your customers. It will take time, but will save you a lot of money and resources, to pinpoint what mediums your customers are accessing and engaging with and where they are located.
Know your strengths – and advertise them. Even better know your unique selling points and strengths that are unique to you if you have some. If not then maybe start here.
Utilising the right messaging and content to connect with customers — once you have an understanding of who your customers are, it’s important to gain a deeper awareness of their profiles to ensure that you tailor your content and messaging to meet their current and future needs and interests. The advertisement I saw on the bus included messaging and imagery, which would have no impact on their target market and could hurt their brand reputation.
Building brand reputation through ethical marketing– in an age of fast consumerism and an abundance of advertising opportunities, the brands that understand their target audience and take care and consideration into how they promote to customers and how often, will build brand reputation and loyalty. It is key to wisely invest time and money advertising to potential customers rather than non-potential customers. In this example, it’s fair to say that people driving behind a bus would be potential customers, but also that a bus spends plenty of time in bus depots, at bus stops and points of transit between different forms of public transit. Not to mention that this bus was in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, where I would assume the penetration for smartphones and technology devices is quite high.
Assessing whether your customer base changes over time – while you might have outlined to target a specific market in your original business plan, you need to constantly engage with your customers to ensure that you are using the correct messages and products for who is actually buying from you.
Offering your customers opportunities to provide you with feedback - it will be obvious from your sales figures whether you are hitting the mark with consumers or not. Offering customers numerous opportunities and ways for them to provide you with feedback about a product, service or your company in general, will enable you to have a clearer understanding of who your audience actually is and what they need and want.
Try market research - Market research can help with almost all of the above points and is an invaluable tool if used correctly and with the right purpose. It can certainly be expensive and sometimes not cost effective, but it also does not need to be done every month or even every year. Any long established business that has never done market research would benefit from the results even if they think they know their business and customers inside and out. I believe that in this example it could have even been better executed if they asked five random smartphone users in the street what they thought of the ad.