Targeting to maximise campaigns

Targeting to maximise campaigns

Four principles for effective target audience selection.

Identifying the target audience is the first task of planning an advertising campaign. Accurately defined target audience profiles reflect consumer behaviour and maximise the opportunity.

Why targeting goes wrong and how to get it right

Identifying the right consumers is difficult and campaigns will fail if targeting is faulty. The core principles of targeting are simple and data is more ubiquitous than ever. Yet, plans go wrong because of complexity. The explosion of media channels, overlaid by large numbers of brands in categories, requires consideration beyond spray and pray. Often the reality is increased confusion and inefficient media plans.

brand media consumer

“Think inclusively; the narrower your target market, the smaller your potential market share.”
– Jenni Romaniuk, Five Steps to Smarter Targeting, Journal of Advertising Research

The task is harder because planning cycles are increasing compressed despite the amount of data that requires analysis. Clients and agencies have access to powerful data analysis tools but struggle to find the sufficient time to evaluate to produce a viable communications strategy. Fortunately it’s easy to fix if you start with four key principles.

Rule 1: Advertise to all prospective buyers

Concentrating on heavy buyers of the brand is a trap. Most buyers have repertoires of brands and few are loyal to a single brand.

Truly dedicated buyers are the ones advertisers need to target the least. They’re more likely to use the brand, notice the advertising, and “like” its Facebook page.3

You can’t build a brand by concentrating on brand-loyal customers. Growth comes from attracting new customers.1

Fortunately heavy users of big brands are heavy users of the category.

Here’s an example: McDonald’s dominates the quick-service restaurant category but 74 per cent of those who bought from “Ronald” also bought from Hungry Jacks, KFC, Red Rooster, Nandos, Oporto, Subway, Pizza Hut or Dominos over the same period, according to emma (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia).

At the other end of the scale, Fast Eddy’s, the smallest brand measured by emma, has a 0.2 per cent penetration over the past four weeks, but 0.3 per cent for McDonald’s customers.2

If you want to build a small brand, make sure you reach users of big brands. Target the category users.

Rule 2: Core audiences are rarely representative.

In principle, media plans should target as broadly as possible and base its targeting on category users, including those who are light users. Advertisers and agencies often take the opposite approach, defining the audience too narrowly. These profiles usually appear to make sense but often don’t accurately represent the customer base.

Creating a misleading audience profile is especially easy to do when working on propensities (buying indexed vs. the total population) without noting the actual number of people in the segment.

At first glance, “women 30-39 who shop at department stores at least once a month, and like to keep up with the latest trends” sounds like a reasonable description of Jeans West customers.

emma gives an impressive propensity index of 235 – this segment is 2.35 times more likely to shop at Jeans West than the average person 14+. The problem, however, is that this profile describes only 5 per cent of Jeans West customers. For every customer who fits this profile there are 19 who don’t.

Rule 3: Think narrow for creative, mass for media.

Narrowly defined audiences do have a use. Tightly-defined audience profiles are useful for creative development, where understanding the core audience guides tone and content.

An overly-narrow target audience becomes problematic when their habits are different from the general customer base.

Basing media analysis on the supposed “core buyers” often results in failing to efficiently target most customers.

The average Jeans West customer is less likely to use the Internet or watch TV than the narrowly defined target, and considerably more likely to read a newspaper than a narrowly defined version.4

media consumption

So, apply the axiom, market to the behaviour, advertise to the self-perception.

Use the core audience profile to understand the brand personality but design the marketing plan to reflect the media consumption of the broad customer base. There may be (and often is) a role for niche media to target the high-propensity buyers but this should be the exception, not the rule.

Another less obvious but critical point – the broader the target audience, the more efficient mass media become.

If we want to target a 364,000 “women 30-39 who shop at department stores at least once a month, and like to keep up with the latest trends”, newspapers and television look inefficient. But that’s not the job. The job is to target the millions of shoppers in the category who might (and often do) shop in Jeans West.

Suddenly, then, mass media is clearly a highly efficient solution.

Rule 4: Use targeting to understand how people actively use media

Consumers don’t sit down to learn about brands. Most advertising works indirectly, building and reinforcing memory structures around a brand.

Allthough the effects of the advertising are largely unconscious, this isn’t always true. In some cases, people consciously use media, including advertising, to help them make purchase decisions.

The Internet is increasingly important in categories such as new car sales, but traditional media still plays a strong role. One-third (33%) of people considering buying a new Toyota Corolla say newspapers are useful when making this decision, and one-fifth (22%) say television is useful.

Prospective Corolla buyers also consider buying other vehicles, such as the Mazda 3, Ford Focus and Holden Cruze. Potential buyers for the most popular cars tend to place even more importance on the usefulness of television, and a great deal more importance on the usefulness of newspapers.

The more we understand how the target audience uses media, the more accurately we can assess the importance of including them in the schedule.

The chart below compares the newspaper and TV scores for Corolla prospects (in red) with those of the most popular brands in the consideration set. What it shows is:

  1. Newspapers and TV are important for reaching Corolla prospects who consciously look out for information in these media, and
  2. They’re even more important for reaching people considering other brands – the ones Toyota prospects are most likely to choose instead of a Corolla, and conversely the ones receptive to being swayed by advertising. 5


Staying on track

The key principles are simple

1. Define audiences widely for media planning

  •  Plan at the category level, not brand or product.
  •  High-reach, high-impact media, such as newspapers and TV, will underpin most campaigns.
  •  At a minimum, plan using a brand’s customer base, not just a subset.

2. Define audiences narrowly for creative purposes

  •  Considering a brand’s customers as a “type” can be useful for understanding their lifestyles and mindset.
  •  Niche/small media can be efficient, but should only be part of the overall plan.


1 How Brands Grow/Byron Sharp/ 2010

2 emma™ conducted by Ipsos MediaCT, People 14+ for the 12 months ending August 2014, Nielsen Online Ratings August 2014, People 14+ only.

3 Five Steps to Smarter Targeting /Jenni Romaniuk/ Journal of Advertising Research Vol 52, No. 3, 2012

4 emma, 12 months ending August 2014, Nielsen Online Ratings August 2014, People 14+ only. Media consumption comparisons based on Heavy/Medium/Light Media Consumption.

5 emma, 12 months ending August 2014

The author: Brian Rock is Research & Insights Manager at The Newspaper Works. Previous experience includes 11 years as Strategic Insights Manager at Network TEN, 3 years as Research Director at Mitchell Media Partners, and 8 years lecturing in Advertising and Marketing at RMIT University.

We hope you have enjoyed the information presented here. Connect with us for more insights and news about our industry.

If you have any questions or if you want to know more about how to apply the strategies discussed, please get in touch: or 02 96926300

View Part One of the series here.

View Part Two of the series here

View Part Three of the series here.

View Part Five of the series here.


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