Which Marketing Channels are Your Target Market Tuned In To?
Homer asked me, “How do you know what your target market is tuning in to?”
“That’s the million dollar question.” I replied. “And it’s a question that all too often does NOT get asked. When it IS asked, it tends not to get answered very well.”
“Why not?” I could see that Homer’s curiosity was aroused.
“It doesn’t get answered well because it involves numerous agendas as well as multiple conflicting interests, most of which are not disclosed.” I summed up the issues. “And when it IS asked, it doesn’t get answered because marketing firms and ad agencies develop preferences for certain mediums. And when they do that, they tend to recommend only the mediums they LIKE using, over the mediums that their clients’ NEED to use to reach their target markets.”
“Huh?” Homer was looking very confused. “That makes no sense!”
Numerous Agendas and Conflicting Interests Collide
“Actually, it’s quite simple.” I explained. “When a marketing firm or an ad agency gets hooked on a specific medium (let’s say it’s producing TV commercials) they assemble a crew of subcontractors who specialize in various aspects of TV commercial production. You know all about this Homer, there’s cameramen, camera assistants, casting agents, actors, make-up artists, wardrobe stylists, video editors, set designers, props people, sound production studios, catering services…”
“Ah yes, the on-set food,” Homer cut in, looking blissful as he revisited his memories of caterer’s food tables.
“When these crews collaborate frequently, they work long hours together, they resolve challenges together, they eat together and they enjoy each others company” I explained,
“In short they build strong bonds.”
“Yes, there are a lot of people involved in TV production,” Homer agreed.
“And at times, it does feel like an extended family!”
“So when that’s what you’re used to doing, ” I continued, “And when that’s what you like to do, you tend to see every project through a one-size-fits-all lens. Or in this case, through a TV lens.”
“Do you mean that these agencies recommend TV as the marketing medium for everyone?” Homer asked. “Yes! A client might actually need to use another medium to reach their target market and an agency would sell them a TV commercial instead because that’s what they like to produce!” I asserted. Homer looked shocked. “That’s dumb!” He exclaimed. “It takes a very
special talent to be a TV star!”
What The Agency Wants Versus What Their Clients Need
“It happens every day, Homer,” I confirmed sadly. “And there’s a hidden agenda that provides even more incentive for them to stay stuck in their rut.” I added. “What’s that?” Homer inquired. “The inter-industry creative awards and honors that ad agencies and marketing firms compete with each other to win.”
The Pursuit of Industry Awards
“Are those like intermural awards?” Homer queried. “Yes, exactly!” I agreed. “In intermural sports, high school and college teams compete against their peers. Ad agencies and marketing firms compete against each other in the same way, “ I said, then added the kicker, “They become obsessed with winning these awards because clients tend to choose the firms that have a long list of awards over those that don’t.”
“Isn’t that the smart thing to do?” Said Homer. “It makes sense to me.”
“On the surface it appears to make sense – yes! But when you look at who sets up, sponsors, competes for and judges these competitions, it’s very much an “insider game.” I clarified. “Hmmm,” Homer frowned.
“So the best entries don’t win?”
“What I mean, Homer, is that “best” is a highly subjective measure-
ment.” I explained. “The entries are not assessed based on the target market’s reaction. So the people the ads are intended to impact don’t get a vote. Nor are they measured on tangible results, like proving that Duff’s beer sales increased 20% over a specific period of time as a result of the commercial produced by Agency “X.”
“So how ARE these awards judged?” asked Homer.
“Typically, they’re judged based on the preferences and opinions of the industry professionals who are invited to judge them.” I said. “Some of them will like gritty black and white cinematography. Others prefer product beauty shots, or animation, or busty models, or quirky humor.”
“Oh my!” said Homer in wonder, “So there IS no criteria – it’s just a matter of individual opinion and taste?” “Yes,” I agreed, “In another conversation on this topic I noted…”
“And unfortunately, clients who need a specific approach to achieve their marketing goals, such as a print campaign, or a billboard, get “sold” on using the medium that their agency prefers, because…
Using Preferred Mediums Allows Marketing Firms and Ad Agencies to:
1. Do more of the work they enjoy most, which…
2. Keeps their “crew” busy, so they are never “unavailable,” and…
3. Generates numerous entries for the various awards they aspire to win, which…
4. Attract the clients who let them do more of… (Go back to #1 and repeat)”
“That sounds like a vicious circle,” observed Homer. “How do you get around that?”
“The answer to that, my friend” I chuckled, “Is SO obvious that you’re goung to give me a great big “D’Oh!” when I tell you. Let’s talk about how authentic brands can avoid the vicious circle of Vanity Marketing.”