Move your focus from a target market to a target individual
From Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick, come this illustration of the ideal customer:
Trader Joe’s is a specialty food market that carries inexpensive, but exotic, foodstuffs. At Trader Joe’s you might purchase Moroccan-flavored simmer sauce or a quart of red pepper soup.
Trader Joe’s describes its ideal customer as an “unemployed college professor who drives a very, very used Volvo.” The image is a simplification, obviously – at any given moment there are likely zero of these actual customers in Trader Joe’s. However, the people who frequent the stores share some of the values and characteristics of the fictional ideal customer.
A crucial element of every strategy is deciding which markets and customers a company will serve. The “unemployed college professor” speaks directly to this issue. Trader Joe’s could have referred to its customers as “people who are high socio-economic status and are quality-conscious, but also budget-conscious, and who value variety and new experiences.” But this adjective-filled statement is nowhere near as vivid an image as the unemployed college professor with a very, very used Volvo.
Trader Joe’s then makes branding decisions based on this caricature of their ideal customer. For example, if they were making decisions on whether or not to carry a new product line, they would ask how would it appeal to the unemployed college professor. If they were developing a promotion, they would tailor it to appeal to the unemployed college professor. It provides focus and direction for their branding efforts.
So how would you describe your ideal customer? At ICON, we find it sometimes helps to start thinking about fictional characters from TV shows or movies who may apply and then to fine-tune that character into a customized and vivid image. One thing’s for sure, once you know who you are trying to reach, you’ll have a better handle on how to best reach them and capture their attention.