Your Consumer Target: What You Need To Know

One of the most powerful laws of marketing is also one of the most counterintuitive. As such, many companies just get it plain wrong - with their brand and sales suffering as a result. Now, you don’t have to:


To maximize sales you’ve got to minimize the number of consumers you target.


Yes, you read it right. To many, this makes no sense, but in reality it forms the basis of effective brand strategy. Let me explain.


One of the biggest mistakes in business is the impulse to broaden the focus of one’s product appeal and marketing messages so as to cater to the most people. The idea is to cast a wide net with which to attract the most consumers. While this might seem logical, it is a common and often fatal marketing mistake.


To create the strongest brand that drives the greatest financial results, a company must identify a core consumer target around which to focus both their product and marketing resources. This doesn’t mean that you don’t want to sell to anyone beyond that target. In fact, in some categories, most of your sales will not come from your consumer target. The decision flows from an analysis of where a company thinks it can gain the greatest traction in the marketplace.


Take Nike, for example. They create performance shoes and target the best athletes as their core consumers. This isn’t because that’s all they want to sell to. It’s because they know that those athletes are the influencers to give the brand the credibility to sell to everyone else. At an extreme level, it’s why Michael Jordan is a billionaire!


The primary reason for targeting specific consumers is plain. Far better to develop a deep and intimate relationship with a smaller group of consumers who can have the biggest impact on your business, then to present your brand as something that tries to be all things to all people. That is a veritable prescription for a mediocre brand and poor business performance.


Beyond that, on a practical basis, consumers are saturated with thousands of commercial messages a day. Unless your company can hit consumers over the head with an expensive barrage of media, advertising must speak directly to one’s specific physical and emotional needs to break through the clutter and have an impact.


Here are a few examples:

Apple is about the strongest brand on the planet. It offers a great example of having a clear consumer target. Remember the Apple guy versus PC guy ads? That campaign articulated who Apple is talking to, and via both marketing and, of course, its pricing - who it isn’t.


Everyone drinks Coke. When I was on the brand though, we had a clear target of a late teen male. There were solid business reasons for that. Research told us that consumers develop their lifetime brand loyalties in the cola category in their late teens. As a result, we spent considerable resources to try to win brand loyalty then. That research was behind why so much of the brand’s marketing and promotions targeted youthful consumers - even though considerable volume was derived from older consumers.


Lastly, in the most recent company that I led, we used our consumer target as a tangible focal point for all of our consumer facing efforts. We knew that a 30 something, African American mother was who we needed to “win” to drive consumption, as well as to be the influencer for other consumers to buy. We gave her a name and used her imagery to meaningfully drive our understanding of our consumers - how they consumed our product, what emotional space our brand occupied, etc. It helped us design both product and marketing much more thoughtfully and effectively.




  • In marketing, far more productive to develop deeper and more intimate relationships with fewer consumers who have the potential to become “super users” and/or influencers, than to create more superficial relationships with more.

  • Focus the vast majority of your marketing resources around better understanding that consumer (your target) and directing both product and marketing efforts toward addressing their physical and emotional needs.


  • This will develop strategic relationships with your most important consumers, but incremental volume from other consumers will flow as well, particularly if your core consumer is an influencer in your product category.


In branding, as in life, it’s all about relationships.  To develop the strongest ones, you’ve got to stake out a clear identity for your brand. A part of that is telling the world who you are, but also directing your attention towards the consumers who can have the biggest impact on your business. However counterintuitive it might be, it’s the key to building a strong brand!


If you’d like more information about how to identify your target consumer, feel free to reach out to me: michael(at)

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Tags: brand, brandstrategy, consumer, positioning, target


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