Tuesday 3 February 2015

Fish where the fish are OR cast a wide net?

To target market or not to target market? Both the 'pearls of wisdom' in the headline echo through the hallways of agencies and offices everywhere. But is one right and one wrong? Let's find out. 

According to Philip Kotler - the marketing doyen who writes the textbooks - to target market: first you find a segment with the most potential for your brand, then you talk exclusively to said segment.

This is done through the evergreen concepts of differentiating and positioning - essentially carving out your own niche. In other words, fishing where the fish are - with the right bait. 

While this feels hyper-rational, it only takes a moment's pause to uncover some broken logic. 

If you only target a choice niche, aren't you ostracising other potential customers? If you want more customers (to grow your brand) doesn't it make more sense to talk to more people? To try and catch more fish?

But, perhaps the even bigger flaw with fishing where the fish are is: if you keep doing it, you'll eventually run out of fish. You can't catch the same fish twice (within a buying cycle). (Yes, there's frequency strategies, but that's for another post)

On the other hand, if you don't target market, then you're looking at mass marketing - targeting your entire category. Or, casting a wide net. 

To grow your brand you need to reach as many category buyers as possible, get them to notice you and then have them remember you in a buying situation. 

Marketing is like a treadmill. You have to exert a lot of energy just to stay in the same place.

Because brands naturally lose their customers regularly - like a leaky bucket. You always need to get new ones to cover. To get them, you have to reach new people. 

So if you have a product and your audience is Murray Carp, then cast a net in the whole of the Murray. Not just a convenient fishing spot. Because, don't forget, the 'wide net' also covers the fishing spot. 

When I see creative advertising for car ads that target women and ostracise men, I find it beguiling. Everyone drives cars! Car brands should cast a wide net and aim to get as many buyers as possible - not just women. 

That's why reach reigns and targeting's time is up. In other words, fish where the fish are if you don't want to grow your brand. Cast a wide net if you do. 

NB: No doubt some of you are thinking some brands simply don't have the capital to mass market. I would hazard a guess that any brand using an agency means it's a strategic choice rather than a financial one. 

Christopher Ott

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