After the overview on the evolution of “brand” concept and its relationship with the marketing approach and the role given to consumers by the different eras, it’s time to understand in detail what – or better who – is the “target” for a business, a product, a service or whatever.
The target of something consists – in marketing and branding – of the selection of people or other businesses that a brand wants to involve in its strategy with the aim of building a relationship, a dialogue that can have the hope to end with a purchasing decision.
If the chosen interlocutor is composed of people, we talk about a business to customer or B2C markets; otherwise, if the audience is made of other organisations, we talk about business to business or B2B markets.
Anyway, the end of the process – that is the aimed purchasing decision – is always less interesting and important than to create a good and strong relationship with the selected target.
Target is a “bad word” that we have inherited from a distant past in which any kind of audience was perceived as completely passive. Target is a term derived from the “bullet theory”, that explained every communication process as unilateral: a message is sent from an addresser to a receiver without being in any way transformed or changed. The fact is that this theory defines the receiver as completely passive and it doesn’t foresee/contemplate any kind of “noise”, neither [mis]interpretations of the message or feedback… and that’s completely impossible, as we now know.
So, if target remains a “handy and useful” word to indicate the audience in marketing or branding, we must underline a couple of things:
- target is never coming alone: we always have different targets to consider and manage
- targets aren’t all the same: they can be differentiated according to their different needs and/or functions/roles
- targets are always made on people: even in the B2B context, the receivers of messages or offers are individuals with a personality and a universe of values. The necessity is understanding the targets’ needs and creating a dialogue with them to let them be an active part of the process.
Certainly it is necessary to simplify and generalise a bit to be able to process all the information related to targets. This is because we need to use that info to define the brand market placement and create its strategic plan. For this reason it’s really useful to think about targets utilising 4 different categories based on the role that every subject has.
- DIRECT TARGET is “the market” and is made up of subjects to which the product/service taken into consideration specifically refers
- INDIRECT TARGET includes “the partners”, all those subjects [people or organisations] who can act as intermediaries in achieving the primary [direct] or alternative target of a brand, product or service.
- COMPLEMENTARY TARGET is composed of “the supporters”, the set of subjects influencing the perception of the direct target in their purchasing choices [eg. media].
- ALTERNATIVE TARGET refers to other possible market niches to involve, a type of customer meaning the offered brand/product/service in a different and often unusual way.
Just to illustrate what is written, I give you the definition of the target market of a trivial object: the disposable razor.
Presumably this product was created to meet the needs of males who are over 14 years old, a medium-low lifestyle [basically those with a medium-high or high living standards prefers other types of products or resort to a barber] and/or a strong propensity to travel, very dynamic and changing habits, the need for a complete shave [the disposable razor is not ideal for those who wear a goatee or moustache] … the direct target.
But, who chooses and buys disposable blades? Not always the person who then uses it [direct target].
It can happen that mothers, wives or partners are the ones who usually take care of the shopping, including razor blades, so they are the subjects in the position to complete the choice of someone else’s consumption [indirect target].
The first time someone shaves it is possible that he would purchase by following the advice of a more experienced person [complementary target].
In other cases the razor is used by women and for personal use, to “remove unwanted hair” in other areas of the body [alternative target] than the face. In this case, with the passage of time, even the “alternative target” is transformed into “direct target” and leads to the launch of a new type of disposable razor, designed specifically for the new female market [and usually pink].
Do you know your targets? If you are not sure, we can figure it out together. 😉