Know your audience.

Three words that companies strive to do. Sounds simple right? Know your audience. Easy. But every year seems to bring a new list of marketing fails that alienate audiences and damage a brand’s reputation. In the last few years alone, there have been some genuinely cringe-worthy marketing missteps:

  • Pepsi created an ad in 2017 where Kendall Jenner offers a soda to a police officer during a protest that awkwardly evokes images of a Black Lives Matter demonstration. In light of the violence that occurred during the BLM protests, calling the campaign tone-deaf was an understatement. Pepsi quickly pulled the ad, and the company president stepped down.
  • In 2019, Peloton felt the public’s wrath after an ad in which a woman receives an exercise bike from her partner on Christmas morning. The ad – titled ‘the gift that gives back’ – was widely criticized for implying the woman needed to get fit. The only thing getting slim was Peloton’s profit margin. The fiasco erased nearly $1.5 billion from the company’s value.
  • There are enough examples of companies failing miserably in new foreign markets to create a whole new Hall of Shame. When Kentucky Fried Chicken initially launched in China, its slogan “finger-lickin’ good” translated into ‘eat your fingers off.’ In Italy, ‘Schweppes Tonic Water’ became ‘Schweppes Toilet Water.’ One can only imagine the confusion and embarrassment for all involved.

Companies in both the B2C and B2B space often learn the hard way about misreading an audience. Entertainers are trained to ‘read the room’ and survey the crowd to figure out what material will work and what won’t. Businesses need to do the same thing.

Running it up the flagpole.

Not knowing your audience’s likes and tastes (not to mention language and culture) can prove costly. Throwing something against the wall and seeing what sticks is no substitute for a comprehensive marketing strategy. The message is simple: do your research and create audience personas.

A discovery session is essential to identifying just who your audience is. Usually, this is broken into different sections, including:

  • Evaluating the current state of your business. Perform an audit of your business from the last several years. Who are your steady clients and which new groups do you want to reach? What are the dangers, opportunities and strengths for your business? It’s also essential to also identify your business goals as your marketing strategy will flow directly from it.
  • Surveying of your current marketing plan. Identify the challenges your company is currently facing. What is your mission, vision and strategy for delivering your product or service.
  • Visualizing your future success. Determine what needs to happen to make the marketing campaign a success. What do you need from your audience?

Visualizing your audience through an audience persona is a valuable tool during the discovery session. Create a profile of a typical person who is most likely to acquire what you’re selling. Talk to them like you’re addressing an individual audience member. Know your audience.

In a B2B scenario, these people may influence buying decisions and have some pull with the president or CEO. Give them a name, title and other demographic info. What’s their typical age, income level and education? What are their frustrations? Where do they get most of their information? Their preferred platforms will significantly influence your marketing channels.

Reward over risk.

Even with a thorough analysis of your audience, mistakes still happen. Often, it’s a result of making assumptions about your audience. Standing Partnership, a management consulting firm, has identified the risks of assuming who your audience is.

  1. Don’t overlook a key audience. Your audience goes beyond your regular customers and clients. Take the time to identify all potential audiences, including subsets of existing stakeholders.
  2. Prioritize your audiences. Most companies have several audiences. They are not like children, so it’s okay to give some more attention than others. In some cases, you may be dissatisfied with your current audience and want to focus on a new group that will provide you with a better return in the long run. A competitive analysis will give you a better understanding of your main audiences, as well as the audiences that your competitors are serving.
  3. Have internal alignment. If each one of your team members was asked who their audience was, would they give you the same answer? Ensure that you have input from everyone in your organization to ensure everyone’s on the same page.
  4. Having the right audience but the wrong analysis. Even if you have identified your target audiences, your team members may have different ideas on how to reach them. Maybe your message is on the wrong channel. Try A/B testing to see which message resonates more. Again, audience personas can help you get back on track.

Getting to know your audience is a long, involved process. Monitoring their activity is an ongoing exercise in determining what’s hitting the mark. Always remember to review their comments and engagements. Send them a survey. It’s all about making a meaningful connection and ensuring your marketing campaign doesn’t become the next cautionary tale.


Need a hand getting in touch with your audience? Drop us a line. We’re happy to help.

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