Companies spend millions on marketing each year targeting certain audiences, but few brands truly understand the individuals they are trying to reach. How many times has a brief crossed your desk that said: “Target Audience: Gen Z”? Better yet, how many times has this sort of brief crossed your desk in 2022 alone? What if we told you that focusing on a single, specific audience—all the time—could be setting you up for failure?
This basic audience approach doesn’t just apply to Gen Z. Maybe your brief says, “Millennials” or “AA/Black” or “Moms with Kids under 5” or “Latinx*”.
*Note: now is a good time to consider if ‘Latinx’ is even the word that’s going to resonate with the people you want to attract because recent Pew Research says otherwise.
Long story short: If you have a one-dimensional audience in your brief, your campaign is not being set up for success.
Target Audience: People are intersectional and multi-faceted
At its core, a creative brief is supposed to encompass the best, smartest, most actionable information for your team, but if your Target Audience is broad and monolithic, then you’ve already hamstrung your entire campaign. Throwing everyone into the same bucket doesn’t just show lackluster thinking, it also shows a lack of esteem for the people you’re trying to engage with, the heart of your business: your consumer.
If your brand wants Gen Z to do something for you, i.e. buy what you’re selling, but the brief doesn’t respect their individuality, then you’re doing it wrong.
Lil Nas X and Greta Thunberg may both be Gen Z, but they are not the same, and before you craft your brief you should decide if you’re trying to attract Lil Nas or Greta. Once that decision is made, the fun part is understanding who they are at their very core, beyond the labels like “Gen Z,” “European,” “male,” or “female,” there are values that define their product decision making and brand loyalty, that’s where brands win.
A real audience isn’t demographics, it’s the intersections where all the things we are meet. It’s all the complexities that make us human. It’s tribes and fandoms, the things that we enjoy together that cut across age, race, and gender. The things that unite us are stronger than you’d think. Teenage boys and your grandmother probably have more in common than you realize, just look at the breadth of the BTS fandom.
By shifting their messaging to challenge conventional wisdom, BTS was able to grow their loyal audience. Additionally, look at Nike and Colin Kaepernick. A lot of proverbial ink was spilled insisting that Nike had gone too far, that they had alienated their consumers. Except we all know how that story ended: with millions and millions in sales because Nike understood their audiences.
Nike customers are not just about the product. They choose Nike because they value what the brand represents: inspiration and innovation for everyone. Nike knows that their consumers aren’t just black or white or living in cities. They’re not just Sneakerheads, or weekend warriors or high school athletes, they contain vast multitudes, are multi-faceted, and standing up for your beliefs resonates with them.
It’s not about being different. It’s about being specific. To win is to respect your audiences, speak to their mindset, understand what they’re doing and how your brand fits into their lives. BTS and Nike understand that when you know who your audiences are and when you build a relationship, it’s not a leap of faith to give them exactly what they want. This is how being specific and targeted with your audience can enhance your brief. This is how you win. So, why isn’t everyone winning?
I believe the answer for many brands is they operate trying to please everybody but end up truly pleasing no one.
Most companies write marketing content in a way that minimizes risk by saying as little as possible. Broad and vague, it’s a defensive strategy intended to appeal to every person. It doesn’t work with most audiences today because consumers can see through it. Instead, they’d rather see who you are and why you truly matter to them.
The future of brands isn’t just about being relevant; it’s about being relatable, as well. It’s not enough to just understand your audience — you must generate a response from them. And to do that, you have to get personal. The consumer is more than one demographic- Gen Z, Moms, Veterans, Asian - and failing to see their intersectionality and dimension can limit a brand’s capabilities to grow.
It is crucial as brand stewards, as creatives, strategists, and planners, to think smarter, to stand out and be relevant. We need to create experiences with brands and mean something to a select group or get lost in the market noise.