Everything ain’t for everybody


People generally think they know what they want, but I have found over years of working with clients to define their target audiences, that they often underestimate how important it is to be very specific about the people their business is intending to serve.

If I had a bond note for every time someone told me their product or service was “for everyone”, I would still not be a wealthy person, but I would have more bond notes than I currently have. I am always tempted to respond by saying, “Oh, so you are marketing rain water and air?” Essentially, those are the kinds of products that are “for everyone” and they generally don’t need to be branded.

Even if you think of the world’s most ubiquitous brands, you will find that they have to leave out some people: Google, Coca-Cola and Michael Jackson. These brands may appear to be everywhere, and for everyone, but they really aren’t. There are people actively choosing not to choose or consume these brands.

There are a number of reasons why businesses find it so difficult to define an audience.

Fear of commitment doesn’t sound like something that belongs in a serious conversation about marketing, but you would be surprised how big a part it plays.

It is the reason we don’t RSVP when we are invited to events — because if we say we are going, then we will actually have to go. If we don’t say we are going then no one will ever know we are coming until we turn up! And if we don’t turn up we can always say: “But we never said we were coming.”

It’s not very different from refusing to commit to a particular audience. If you don’t aim at anyone, then you don’t have to commit to finding them where they are, and understanding them, and creating products and services that solve their problems.

You can just bombard them with offers and hope they buy — so much easier in the short term! If you miss them completely with some of your communication you can say, “Ah well, it wasn’t aimed at them anyway!”

But customers are people we want to get into a relationship with. And as with any relationship, it is necessary at some point to commit. In fact, the success of your relationship very largely depends on it!

Another reason businesses are reluctant to define their audiences is because creating a balance between what is right for your business and what your audience wants can be hard. We want to deliver value, yes, but we also want to make money. A proper profiling of your audience won’t just tell you who buys from you, it will tell you why they buy. Once you know why they buy you can match this to your own “why” for being in business.

Part of the terror the businesses or marketers experience when they have to specify their audiences, is that they will somehow “lose out” because the audience will be too narrow, and there will be a host of people, who could purchase their product or service, but won’t do so because they won’t know about it.

My daughter recently planted some flowers in a tin can. She’s been very excited to see green things sprouting and gradually getting taller. I haven’t had the heart to tell her that the green things are actually weeds, and that she will have to pull them out if she wants the flowers to have a strong chance at thriving.

It’s the same with audiences. Just because there are large numbers sprouting doesn’t mean they are all right for you. Proper audience definition ensures that you weed out the people who are not right for you, and that you do reach the people you need and ought to reach.

One more reason why defining the audience might be difficult is that a business may be going about it the wrong way. Firstly, you may have created a product without testing whether the market has need for it or not. Secondly, you may be defining the audience purely by demographic profiling and forgetting the psychographic element.

A novice marketer will define his audience mostly by age, gender, race, income bracket, location, marital status, etc. So you might end up with a profile like “Married and unmarried women in the $500-$1 000 income bracket, who live in medium to low-density areas and have children under the age of 10.”

But an experienced marketer knows that these factors alone do not provide sufficient insight into his audience for him to craft a brand that responds to their needs. He must understand their attitudes and interests, their habits and motivations, their beliefs and aspirations, and their lifestyle choices.

His profile after defining them this way might be something more like: “Busy mothers of young children, who believe they can raise children, who do better in school than the average child.” This gives him so much more insight and as technology pulls geographically disparate communities closer together, it is now possible to group and reach those people regardless of where they physically live. Using both the demographic and the psychographic information together, helps develop a more multi-dimensional picture of your audience.

The primary reason you want to define your audience clearly is simply money. You don’t want to waste money on activities that don’t help you get closer to your audience. You don’t want to spend resources developing products and then find that actually you missed a key insight that makes your months of research and development redundant.

Understanding and defining your audience will greatly speed up marketing and promotion efforts. Your creative team will thank you for it, because no one likes doing work that is aimed at “everyone”. Everyone wants to talk to “someone”!


  1. Comment…I enjoyed reading this article. It is unfortunate that the programs to give money and empower our people don’t focus on such marketing issues first. Before moneys are given out for projects, a thorough marketing strategy must be met.

  2. l agree to disagree the writer wsrote her own opinion shame its in the name of freedom of expression.mr editor in chief this articule should have been written at the end that she has written in her own capacity.she has exposed her level of thinkimg n its shallow.u need more mentoring

  3. good stuff .keep going.Never mind the voice of dissent,it has been always there for everyone who shows effort.

  4. the article is confusing and meandering and not upright and to the point, being a marketer for 30 years and not sure if writer has ever been exposed to direct field work or just a good theorist.

  5. critics are an important to an form of writings, however there should be constructive critism. we need people to point out where and how exactly does the article lack in terms of facts and why not offer some advice?

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