black and white tunnel


Alexei Orlov, CEO, RAPP Worldwide

Today, advertising is optional for consumers, but essential for marketers. They broadcast a commercial message to millions of households over network television believing that most people would see it, targeting their various customer segments as one massive group, based on limited attributes, assuming that the message resonates with enough people within that mass group to increase sales.

With the amount of data, technology and analytical tools available today, we can take ‘hope’ out of that equation. We have the ability to target individuals and actually personalize our message to ensure it resonates with demographic and psychographic profiles that will give us the best ROI for the spend. Marketers have an overwhelming bounty of information; however, it may be so overwhelming that it’s easier to ignore it – big data vs. smart data. Why aren’t we more focused on targeting the individual and re-targeting them based on the multitude of ‘profiles’ the individual has or the specialized tribes in which they belong?

The answer in a nutshell is human nature. Do fewer things, better. Scale.

Broad, “big ideas” that appeal equally to very large groups of customers, simultaneously, are what marketers celebrate most often. By design, many are skipping the opportunity to be personally and uniquely relevant in preference for “universally appealing” messages and ideas. In other words, they believe and hope that people are more alike than different. That’s a dangerous assumption to make.

The truth is, many marketers are drifting. Perhaps a harsh conclusion, but the evidence supports that marketers are somewhat lost…and they don’t even know it. While tools and technology exist that allow us to hone our focus on different tribes and deliver compelling stories that inspire action, there are too many distractions that steal focus away from precision.

Research firm Yankelovich has estimated and professed for years that the average consumer is exposed to literally thousands of marketing messages… per day! And these are mostly mass-targeted messages, where everyone is treated the same, with the same needs, the same message. Exactitude and relevance are non-existent. Not wise considering the “opt-in” culture that exists.

Based on research from our partner agency, Haygarth, released in March, food brands are even more challenged than other industries in reaching young adult consumers. The research found that only 11% of Millennials feel that food advertising is personalized for them, despite the fact that more than a third (33.7%) thinks it is important to be more knowledgeable about food (40.4%) than fashion (26.7%). This means that many food brands are completely missing the mark in precisely reaching their audience when they blanket the airwaves with family-friendly messaging or sports themes – things that may not resonate with Millennial foodies. Food brands should work diligently to understand the individuals that make up this audience and know how they want to be inspired and informed to better tailor their approach to engaging them.

Some brands are catching on. Every day we hear about a different brand committing to putting in the effort to take an individual-centric approach. From Heineken changing its one-size-fits-all sponsorship strategy to Coke experimenting with new packaging with names on the can, to McDonald’s more specifically targeting the customer groups they are trying to win, some brands see the value in this approach, even if it requires more work.

When a brand can truly demonstrate a unique understanding of the individual by understanding the psychology of choice, sharing and engagement, and speak to their particular needs, a completely different kind of relationship is formed.

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