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Deeply Superficial

Tom HutchisonOctober 22, 2019

Marketing and advertising are full of paradoxes. We’re called on to confront circumstances that appear absurd or contradictory but somehow turn out to be true. We experience perplexing conflicts in logic that make our strategies seem impossible.

For instance, when we design brand advertising campaigns, we need our audiences to be deeply superficial. We want to reach the largest number of people possible. Yet, we also want to start a personal conversation. The problem arises when you realize that an audience specific enough for a personal message is too small to give you the reach you need. At the same time, a large audience, when viewed in aggregate, takes on the homogeneous characteristics of the entire marketplace. To create a deeply superficial audience, you must select attributes that are common to a lot of people but are important enough to influence their behavior. For example:

Understand your connection

Relationships are everything. That’s especially true for customer relationships. People who have a connection with your brand develop perceptions they bring to any brand message. They have preconceived ideas about the value of your products. They know how your brand makes them feel, and they’ve already distinguished you in the marketplace. Any common attitudes your customers have ought to be part of your brand message. People who don’t have a relationship with your brand don’t come with those same biases. It’s possible to reach them with information that helps them form opinions. Create data that identifies people as customers versus non-customers to enable deep engagement with your brand.

Recognize where they are in their life

People don’t really care about your brand. They care about themselves, and they will form their attitudes about your brand around how it fits into their lives. Your place in a consumer’s life is affected by their collective experience. A person who has just graduated from college is different from someone who is planning for retirement. New parents behave differently than people who’ve never had children. And people in stable households with established careers have different perceptions than those who have just rented their first place. Data that defines a person’s life stage provides context to deliver brand messages. Integrate persona or segmentation data that defines a person’s life stage to drive meaningful customization of brand messages.

Respect their core values

People increasingly want to have relationships with companies that stand for something. They expect brands to have a purpose that benefits society or supports causes that align with their values. Seemingly trivial behaviors like the inclination to donate to charity or membership in a fraternal organization can indicate important principles. Even if your brand advertising doesn’t acknowledge these attributes directly, there’s still the opportunity to fashion effective messages by reflecting those beliefs in your creative. Linking the content with easily defined segments of the marketplace that align with people’s values will enable you to make a compelling emotional connection.

Your brand advertising is an important component of a sophisticated omnichannel strategy. It serves as an introduction to your company and your products. It’s a reminder that keeps you front-of-mind for consumers. Your ads communicate who you are and what you’re about. So, you can’t create target audiences that are superficial. You run the risk of delivering messages that are so broad that they don’t connect with people. At the same time, you can’t fashion audiences that are so specific that they don’t give you sufficient reach. There’s a deeply superficial middle ground where the data supports large audiences but is constructed with very personal insights.