people, not labels

In advertising we study people. We attempt to understand what they want, why they want it and what we can do to convince them. Notice the language I'm already using: we and them. As if we aren't them.

We also attempt to group people together into targets against which we create messages and buy media.

Do these labels make it easier or harder for us to meaningfully market to people? Is a target group helpful or does it hinder our ability to actually persuade people? Is it possible to market to people, not labels? Should we drop the idea of a target?

So I've raised a few questions without answers. Here comes my opinion. I think labels (i.e. targets) are necessary for marketing. We can never capture the complexity of every human being so targets are an efficient and effective way of resonating (at least partly) with a large group of people. Having said that, I think awareness of the abstract and thus, inherently inaccurate, nature of targets is also needed. Without this balance we risk thinking that targets are real, which they aren't, people are real.

Balance the need for targeting with awareness. Awareness of the risk that thinking of people as targets can block your ability to actually perceive them as real people.


Employee Appreciation said...

Is persuasion always necessary. What if something is useful for people and they want it. Then there wouldn't really be manipulation and targetting does make sense.

CHH said...

First of all, I would like to thank you for your interesting remarks about advertising and the power of the people within the industry. This is a topic that is obviously pertinent to every human being and the construction of their identity. Humans choose specific traits or labels that they want to include in their identity because for example, the popular kids in class had it or, the commercial or catchy song lingers in your head until it eventually consumes you. Certainly it is of great importance for the audience to recognize and be aware of the directedness of such messages and the possible vulnerability to some messages.

You raised a few questions to which you later answered in your post on the subject of dropping the idea of a target market. First and foremost, I think that, in order for any message to successfully reach society, the message must be either funny, hard to forget (for example the Chihuahua in the Tace Bell advertisements) or directed towards a target viewer. I’m unsure if whether anything would be persuasive without having one of those three mentioned criteria. However, considering the present day generation of the “I want it now” mentality, one may or may not be about to successfully devise a marketing technique to suit the needy mentality that is quickly sweeping into our future and our children. Also, I agree with your thoughts on the fear of thinking about people as targets and essentially losing sight of the ability to see them as real living beings, that is the main worry, I feel, for the future of advertising. When will the cost of advertising become so high and with such little benefits for the company, that we do away with the concept? I’m not sure that that is in store for the future because society has naturalized these messages to make them now appear normal, with little shock value. Consumers, regardless of the cost of a product will definitely think of per say a catchy song, a funny tune in the commercial or a sexy woman in the process of choosing a product. Maybe advertising won’t ever lose its spunk?

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