Faces in the crowd — meaningful mass marketing


I love shopping for new clothes, but I hate seeing the words ‘one size fits all’ appended to anything I’m about to buy. It calls to mind something baggy, shapeless and not really suited to the task. To me, ‘one size fits’ all actually means ‘a size that suits everyone equally as badly’.

What’s true for my wardrobe is just as true in marketing. Everyone is different, so any mass marketing activity that tries to shoehorn this diversity of tastes, preferences and behaviours into a single approach will end up suiting nobody at all.

Traditionally, marketers have tried to refine mass approaches by creating a view of an average customer. But Mr, Miss, Ms or Mrs Average simply doesn’t exist — and this is a problem. How many of us get marketing messages that bear no relation whatsoever to our lives? I know that I do and my response is indifference at best and irritation at worst.

No marketer sets out to evoke these reactions in customers, so when marketing products to mass audience groups, it’s particularly important to see something of the individuals that make up the crowd.

At the most basic level, understanding gender makes a huge difference. Age is also a fundamental — what I wanted from a stereo at 17 is very different to what I want now. And then there’s location — the motivations that lead a 60 year old male in rural Aberdeenshire to make a purchase are likely to be very different to a 23 year old female living in central London. 

Today, we can profile and segment both general consumers and an organisations own customers in more detail than ever before — adding in additional insight such as likely income levels, interests, behaviours and contact channel preferences. So don’t think ‘one size fits all’ and do think about your customers:

  • who are your best and worst customers;
  • identify what it is that makes one group stay with you and another not;
  • apply lessons learned from your ideal customer interactions to those groups that aren’t so lucrative;
  • take the time to understand the communications channels that specific groups prefer and the content that it most likely to appeal.

By using greater understanding — picking out individual faces in the crowd— you can ensure that your acquisition strategy is driving consumers that are likely to be high value plus turn one-off purchasers into long-term, loyal and highly profitable customers.

And stay tuned, because in two upcoming blogs I’ll look at both the power of segmentation and profiling and the results that prove that mass marketing can be meaningful.

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