How Marketing Fails When You Target “Your Customers”​


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Have you ever had this conversation?

Client: “Our marketing campaign failed. Why?”

You: “Well, who were you targeting?”

Client: “Our customers.”

You: “Okay, but who are your customers?”

Client: “They’re our customers.”

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This is a common response to the question, “Who are you targeting?” which might explain why a marketing campaign failed. Even with the best imagery, clever copy, and a strong call to action, the best campaigns can fail if not speaking to the right people.

Take a look at this Facebook post:

Credit: Plainfield Police Department

If you’re in my age group (you’ll know who you are), you “get it.” In our area we have experienced an uptick in coyotes hanging out in neighborhoods, more often being seen during the day. From reading this post, it’s clear that the police department must have been getting a significant volume of calls and they wanted to address it publicly. I’m sure they’re frustrated fielding so many calls and decided to have some fun with it instead.

When I read it, I laughed out loud. The message was instantly clear, and I thought it was a great way to nicely say, “Please stop calling us about this.”

What I thought was interesting is that I showed it to my 16 year old son, who has never known the antics of Wile E. Coyote. He stared at it and gave me the side eye, and I could see his thought process, trying to figure out why exactly I thought it was so funny. What was successful to catch my attention would fail miserably had they been targeting my son’s age group.

That’s when I realized this is a great example of knowing your audience outside of the fact that they are “our customers.” They are more than that – they are a group of individuals who share some common traits beyond being your customer. Successful marketing research & planning identifies those commonalities and uses them to their advantage when possible.

This police department must have done their homework, because their post was well received. Hopefully it also benefited them by seeing a decline in coyote calls.

How do you learn more about your customers as individuals?

    Ask them! When there’s opportunity, find out more. Include a question or two on your feedback survey that asks unrelated, personal preference questions. An example for Chicago brands might be, “It’s baseball season, where is your loyalty – North Side or South Side?” Include options such as, “I don’t do baseball” or “I prefer football, hockey, etc” – use this information to find ways to engage using these interests to make the message fun and personal.
    Use social listening metrics. Many available tools can drill down beyond age and gender demographics. Look for analytics such as marital status, interests, familial makeup, etc – any commonality can give you insight for creating great content.
    Find ties using insight metrics from your social sites. This is extremely beneficial for local groups or social pages. People will generally talk about a wide range of topics – look for themes, where members connect most, and build on that.

    One example of this last point is one I found in my own backyard. Our town’s Mayor, Roger Claar, is an active member in our community’s Facebook group. This can be a challenge, as it is an active, vocal group who likes to commiserate over coyotes, skunks, and garbage pickup.

    After one long skunk conversation filled summer, Mayor Claar did something awesome – in the town’s Fall parade, he gave a very inconspicuous nod to the Facebook group, which was quickly noticed and discussed at length. Take a look at the post below:

    I caught your joke, Mayor Roger C. Claar! Walking in the parade with the Bolingbrook town animal sticking out of your back pocket. Genius! Great Pathways Parade 2017!

    This is a little thing, but in knowing specifically who his “customers” are outside of the fact they live in the same town, he took a commonality that was a pain point and had fun with it.

    Digging just a little deeper can go a long way in bringing customers together, closely tying them to the brand, and creating a positive experience for all.

    So, next time someone asks who your target audience is, go beyond “our customers” and really think about it. This first step can make the difference in your next campaign.

Marianne Hynd
Marianne Hynd is the Vice President of Operations at Ann Michaels & Associates, a customer experience measurement firm. The company specializes in mystery shopping, customer feedback, and interactive engagement kiosk programs.


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