Recent articles have argued that the exercise of profiling consumers has become useless because it depicts situations that do not exist and the C19 crisis has changed attitudes. Does this mean profiling is a waste of time and there is not need to target consumers ? There is confusion on what profiling can bring and how it relates to targeting. Read here how at Brand Reveal we view and approach Consumer Profiling and Targeting
In its simplest form, targeting means knowing where to direct marketing efforts to increase the likelihood of a desired response (provided your offer is relevant and differentiated). This idea alone makes sense because every marketing initiative has a cost and therefore should not be wasted on an audience who will never be interested by your offering.
Therefore building a target audience profile (buyer and / or consumer) to connect with, makes sense. In the definition process, we find that one single approach alone does not fit all requirements. In fact, a combination of different approaches works better as it allows to answer to different questions.
1- Broad Description: at its broadest level, a brand should be able to describe its audience by desired gender, life stage and consumption occasions. Are you talking to young adult males in their party time or to adult mature women with kids in their relaxation moments? Laying simple foundations will help understand who you want to recruit or trigger repeat purchase.
If one needs to avoid being to narrow, being too broad is also a source of mistakes. For instance, targeting Millenials, is a non-sense because this cohort includes a 18 - 35 years old audience with very different life stages and very different expectations and dreams...
2- Precise Profiling: this approach, also know as Target Consumer Understanding, is a vivid description of who we want to speak to. This can be as precise as you want with stories, mood boards etc... on desired socio-demographics, lifestyles, attitudes, usages, needs and wants. This "persona" does not exist in real (or if it did, chances that there would be enough similar profiles would be very too low to build enough volumes).
This is a PROJECTIVE technique which helps uncover different insights, which in turn lead to Key Brand Benefits, i.e. the most compelling emotional benefit a brand can offer. For instance a brand like Johnnie Walker will "inspire progress" in response to the insight of men wanting to progress in life. Which is true for young adults, but also more mature men, true to the brand vision of being admired by every adult man.
This approach is a bit more sophisticated, but very feasible provided the brand has some empiric or pragmatic knowledge about its audience. Therefore, Precise Profiling should not be ditched as it has a lot of value, in particular in the Brand Positioning stage of a project.
3- Target Clusters: this is the more sophisticated approach and requires some "usage" data. The idea is to build groups of consumers based on similar profiles and behaviours. For instance, if your (online) campaigns show higher sales among men 25-35 in the Paris region, then the purchasing likelihood of 25-35 years old men in the Paris region, but who do not buy the product yet, will be higher. As such, you next campaign can target this profile, both buyers and non buyers, for higher return as a repeat purchase or a recruitment.
This technique is used by Tax Authorities to increase chances of finding tax evasion: inspectors know that tax cheaters usually have similar socio-demographic profiles (age, job, assets...). So instead of running (costly) random checks, they focus efforts on those who have not been caught cheating yet, but with similar profile because chances they frauded are higher vs. the rest of tax payers... This approach is very useful when building sales and communication campaigns. The good news is that with the surge of on line sales, this type of data is more and more available.
The importance of time: it is key to recognise the dynamic nature of your target audience over time. A Consumer Description should be regularly checked and refreshed, if possible with qualitative information to reflect capture changes in attitudes. People get old and change life stages... So how do you make sure your brand is on their path when they settle in a new situation ? On a more recent base, the C19 crisis provides a good reason to reassess some insights and Key Brand Benefits, just as the World War II influenced our gran-parents' views on life, or the Berlin Wall fall influenced our views on the world.
The thoughts around the uselessness of a Precise Profiling are not well formulated and miss the point on the projective approach to uncover insights. For an effective approach on Profiling and the corresponding targeting, it is important to understand the different questions the different approaches can answer, and every Brand Owner must ensure consistency of outcome across different techniques, as well as regular refresh of Consumers' descriptions.