What You Don’t Know About Your Heavy Buyers May Surprise You


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When our weight-loss packaged-goods client was preparing to develop a new primary advertising campaign, we encouraged the management team to step back and take an isolated look at just the company’s highest-purchasing consumers. Our goal was to have the client acquire more of the “right” prospects who would use more of the product and stick with the brand longer and more exclusively. The brand had recently lost significant momentum in attracting new heavy buyers.

Using household panel data (the tracking of purchases of hundreds of thousands of households supplied by companies like Nielsen and IRI), we created an initial view of the demographic, attitudinal and behavioral breakdowns of the brand’s heaviest buyers. The difference between the heaviest consumers and the average consumers was eye-opening.

Executives had always described their target in line with their average consumer. This was a younger woman with 20 to 30 pounds to lose. She worked, most likely in a lower-paying non-professional position, and had younger children at home. She liked country music, was a NASCAR fan and shopped at Wal-Mart. Media habits consisted mainly of watching non-news TV shows and regular Internet use.

They watched a significant amount of television, particularly news and documentaries, and were heavy readers.

These heaviest buyers, however, were older women who had, not 20, but an extra 100 or more pounds they wanted to shed after having raised their kids. They lived in one- or two-person empty-nester households and had high disposable income. They watched a significant amount of television, particularly news and documentaries, and were heavy readers. Fewer than half of them were regular Internet users.

Are you as intrigued as we were at the contrast? Can you imagine how the wheels turned with our client’s management team? These two groups of women were not very alike at all, were they? They were at different life stages. They had dramatically different weight and health profiles. And their media consumption was not well aligned.

Would this kind of analysis change the way you would market if you were in our client’s shoes and had been marketing to the average consumer instead of the heavy buyers—the ones who may make up 70 percent of volume? Is the mindset of someone with 100 pounds or more to lose the same as someone with only 20 pounds to lose? Would your messages be the same? Would your media plan be the same?


Executives quickly saw that they needed to restructure their thinking and their marketing actions. As a first step, they reshaped a major strategic consumer review to understand this target better. Further, they committed to shifting focus from the majority of users to the majority of their volume. Adopting this focus resulted in many marketing changes.

Previously, when targeting its average consumer, the company had run a campaign that was presenting its product as a way to “lose 10 pounds for swimsuit season.” Can you imagine how a 240-pound woman might feel about that? How much better would she feel about being in a swimsuit if she lost 10 pounds? Is that 10-pound message likely to motivate her? Or heighten despair?

The brand’s campaigns up to this time had been featuring “aspirational” images of young women who might have been about 120 pounds. Did the heavy-buying target want aspirational images? Sure. But they wanted images that were “believable” for them in their 240-pound starting-point mindset. So the brand’s agencies started to develop advertising and web content that included women who were a little older: more in their 30s than in their 20s. These women looked healthy and active, yet appeared to weigh around 140 pounds. These images were more believable and “reachable” to the core audience, yet still strongly aspirational.

Our client uncovered how these consumers needed more support in their quest to lose significant weight. They also needed more “proof” that the product could work for them.

The client and their agencies knew that the TV ads, as good as the new platform was, wouldn’t be enough to share the whole story. So they supplemented their TV advertising with longer-form information made available through a toll-free number and a web site. They also fielded in-store starter kits with a strong educational component; these really performed well in getting consumers involved and sticking with the product longer and stronger.

The deeper core consumer understandings also became elemental in the re-development of their brand positioning and into the development of new packaging and products. Collectively, these changes reshaped the brand, re-energized sales and reversed the decline of the core of heavy buyers.

How well do you know your core customers? Do you know how different they are from your average buyers? How might you think and act differently and more productively if you understood what made your heavy buyers unique? Know this and you will undoubtedly guide numerous marketing improvements that can produce exponential healthy growth for your brand.

Deb Rapacz
Deb Rapacz helps brands and non profit organizations build a solid core of highly-committed buyers or donors. She is a highly-rated marketing instructor at St. Xavier University and conducts research on the psychology of brand commitment and consumer engagement.



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