“Branding Myths Executives Believe” is a five-part blog series that explores branding misconceptions. This blog series appears weekly on Tuesdays and is written by Allison Bradley, Brand Strategy Director at Hyperquake.
“You can be all things to all people.”
Isn’t this something each one of us wants to believe even if we know it isn’t really true? Executives want to be “all things to all people” with the best intentions of reaching the widest demographic. However, this approach is a myth and will likely hinder the brand’s growth rather than encourage it.
As an example, let’s step outside corporate America and examine a non-profit organization for which a friend of mine once worked. This organization catered to teenagers, providing a positive environment where teens could hang out on weekends and avoid common youthful temptations. The organization went through a branding initiative and was asked who comprised its target market. Being aspirational, the non-profit said its target was all teenagers in the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) because they hoped to have the most widespread, positive impact. Unfortunately this target cast their net far too wide.
“All teens in an MSA” is not a consumer target; it’s a population demographic, a slice of humanity. Also, being too inclusive with the target market ignored the following considerations:
- –Consumers’ natural brand affinities (e.g., the common interests of the youth who like the organization’s services)
- –How brand benefits align with consumers’ aspirations (e.g., a youthful consumer wants to feel “cool” and fit in)
- –Obvious barriers to brand adoption (e.g., half of the target audience cannot drive, thus geographic distance was a limiting factor).
Trying to be all things to all teenagers hindered this non-profit organization. It didn’t allow the organization to create a brand that resonated with their actual consumers.
Large corporations innocently make similar mistakes when they define their target consumer as “moms” or “seniors.” In doing so, they overlook the rainbow of differences along the consumer spectrum and create “least objectionable” products/services. As a result, the brand becomes less ownable and weakens its value-added consumer connections.
As marketers, let’s erase this myth and replace it with reality. Brands need precise consumer targets to encourage consumer engagement, capture consumer loyalty and reap the greatest financial benefits.
Allison Bradley is a Brand Strategy Director at Hyperquake and believes she’s the target consumer for brick-and-motor bookstores. She can be reached at allison.bradley (at) hyperquake (dot) com.