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The Importance of Understanding Your Target Audience

understanding your target audience

If you were to buy a birthday present for your customer, do you know what he or she likes or would you play safe and buy a different perfume each year? Do you know what your customer likes, dislikes, aspirations, needs and wants? Do you have a deep understanding of your target audience?
In 2010, apparel company GAP made a sudden change in their brand identity, in an attempt to appeal more to younger, hip consumers. The brand wanted to move from their “classic American design, to modern, sexy, cool”. Their iconic navy blue field was replaced with a plain white background while the logo was minimalised to even their font and letter colour changes. It was not well received and caused an internet storm within hours of its change.
It was so bad, GAP reverted back to the original design just 6 days later, making it the most short-lived logo change of all time. It is difficult to rebrand an iconic brand with a quick logo change that doesn’t have the support of a deeper change on the product, process and organisation culture levels, and certainly disastrous with an integrated marketing campaign to properly communicate the new direction.
Some say that GAP was remiss in not understanding their target audience, thinking that every millennial wanted a modern, sexy, cool brand to wear. In their rush to appear relevant, the sudden logo change caused their North American sales to fall 8%, even after reversion. Even though the trusty logo is now firmly back in place, unfortunately brand mistakes live forever on the Internet.
The bright side is, we can all learn from Gap’s brand mistakes. The biggest lesson of all is to conduct extensive research in understanding your target audience before executing a logo rebrand.
We use customer segmentation as a way to divide the population into groups based on common characteristics like age or occupation. Companies can target multiple customer segments, but each segment would need a different message and approach, because each segment has different needs and wants.
Knowing who your customers are is not just a demographics question; age, ethnicity, language-spoken or occupation. It is no doubt essential and should be the very least you need to know about your target audience. What’s more important is adding on their personality traits, habits, motivations, and values. We call this the set of attributes a psychographic segmentation.
Porsche does a remarkable job at exhaustive research of their target audience. The brand segments their audience using psychographic attributes such as performance-driven drivers and status-symbol drivers. Based on this, Porsche develops cars that appeals to each target audience, and the brand messages that speak directly to their psychographic needs.
Segmenting your customers into distinctive target audiences can reap great benefits for your brand. Research methods such as focus groups and surveys are fast and popular ways to dive deep into understanding your target audience and what they need. Build a target audience persona that includes demographic and psychographic attributes, to quickly understand your target audience at a glance. Then it becomes easier for your brand to fit into their daily lives.
We also talk about target audience, customer segmentation and more in our new guidebook The CEO’s Strategy Playbook: The Brand Building Playbook for Business Leaders, which you can download today and get your own do-it-yourself brand strategy worksheet!