Marketing: Who do you think you’re talking to?

Marketing: Who do you think you’re talking to?

Brand Manager

Prior to becoming an instructor, I worked for a time as the brand manager of a medium-sized community. I was tasked with hiring a marketing research/creative firm, facilitating their work, and managing the brand.

Because it was a community brand, my employer and I recruited a team of community stakeholders to help with the hiring and implementation process.  In response to our initial RFP, the team received many excellent responses.  We interviewed five finalists over the course of a couple days.

The process was an education.  We got to see many unique design philosophies.  But one firm, in their presentation, won us over when they asked our hiring panel, “what are the six P’s of marketing?”

The brand-team began to deliberate, scrambling to piece together this puzzle.  “Product!” I said.  “Price, people, promotion, place…”  but a sixth???

“Politics.” said the consultant.

The group looked around the table, tittered, and nodded their heads.  They recognized at that moment the challenge that lay before us: gaining our established, traditional community’s acceptance of a new brand.  And this consultant was the only one to recognize that we would be needing to communicate to this audience.

Guess who won the bid?  (They deserved to–and they did splendid work!)

Marketing communication mirrors basic communication rules in so many ways.  One of these fundamental rules is to consider your audience.  Who are you talking to?

Often when we are communicating with people, we are so preoccupied with what we are thinking and trying to say that we forget the listener.  In marketing efforts made by small business owners this is also true, especially when it comes to things like logos, taglines, and ad graphics.  We forget that the goal of these items is to communicate to someone else, not to ourselves.  Yes, the marketing should reflect our business’s identity, but it should SPEAK to your target audience.

I like

By nature, people want to choose their favorite colors.  Perhaps they love cats and think that a restaurant with a cat-themed ad would be the cutest thing since the Coppertone baby.  The trouble here is that many people don’t like cats, and the idea of cats near their food makes the roof of their mouths begin to itch.  Purely by accident, the business owner has turned away a big chunk of potential customers just by choosing to feature cats in the ad!

When I teach public speaking, one of the key elements we discuss is audience analysis.  I ask my students to look around the room and consider demographics like age, race and gender.  I ask them to consider psychographics like personal interests, hobbies and knowledge about their topic.  In any communication, understanding who you are talking to and crafting your message to be as appealing and understandable as possible to them will make you more successful.

Just like you and I would probably not choose the same outfit to wear to work, you and I are unlikely to agree about whether an ad, logo, or graphic is appealing.  That is not too important.  What is imperative is that the target audience for that ad/graphic finds it appealing.


When working on marketing, whether it is flyers for a local event or ads for your business, take the time to think about your audience–their interests, needs, preferences and desires.  Taking this information into account will help you create marketing material and place it that will best serve your needs–by focusing on the customer.




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