You are not your target market

They probably aren’t listening to the same radio/Internet stations as you. You may be on a particular social media platform regularly, but that doesn’t mean they are. You might get your news from a particular outlet, they may get it entirely differently.

When time and resource pressures creep into the promotional and advertising planning process, it can be easy to decide that you know the target market well enough to decide the best strategy to take. In most cases, this includes making assumptions that they are just like you. But they probably aren’t. Even if you fit into the definition of your target market, you behave differently because you have a vested interest and inside knowledge.

Similarly, many people complain to their marketers, that they “never see their marketing.” But they forget that they aren’t the target market, which means if they are seeing the ads, the ads are most likely in the wrong places.

Frequent your competition to positively impact your business

Wouldn’t it be good management and marketing to frequent your competitor’s offerings to understand the market and the differences?

A man examines a tomato at an open air market.
If this man owned a produce market, should he buy his groceries from his competitors? I argue he should. “Shopper” by Carl Mueller, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It was supposed to be a relaxing moment on the couch, with a hot cup of coffee and my local grocery store’s magazine, but it quickly turned into frustration.

As I read the owner’s (and marketer’s) write-ups about the freshest produce at their stores, the highest-quality ingredients stocked in their aisles, and their family atmosphere, which translates to amazing customer service, I thought, “Have they been to another grocery store lately?!?”

And then it struck me, they probably hadn’t.

The reality is, their produce is terrible and rots quickly. It’s also highly overpriced compared to the Trader Joe’s just across the street. And interactions with their staff have been memorably bad.

So how did this gap between marketing and reality happen?

Probably a mix of the following:

  1. When they do go their own store, they are treated differently because employees know them.
  2. They don’t frequent their competitors and incentivize/encourage their employees not to frequent their competitors.

And it makes sense, if this grocery store owner went to a competitor’s store, it’d probably turn into a local public relations nightmare for him and probably hurt his store’s brand.

But is that the way we should react? Wouldn’t it be good management and marketing to frequent your competitor’s offerings to understand the market and the differences? Shouldn’t we applaud employees like this American Airlines executive who flew United?

We can hire secret shoppers, but I would argue that employee everyday interactions with competitors is  the key to small changes that could greatly impact your product or service.

  • If Hyatt hotel employees stayed in other hotels, they may realize how slow their elevators are compared to other hotel chains and investigate why.
  • If an oil company employee went to another gas station to fill her tires with air, she may realize how much safer she feels if the air pump is in front of the store vs. the side of the store and advocate for the change at her company.
  • If a restaurant employee went to a competitor, they may generate new ideas for the restaurant they work at, such as a new way of managing reservations.
  • And if my local grocery chain employees went to Trader Joe’s, they might realize the customer service difference between them and their competitor and work to try to fix it.

So my challenge for you this week is to deeply consider not only your own shopping patterns, but how you may be incentivizing or encouraging your employees’ shopping patterns when it comes to your product or service. Perhaps the best way you can help your own business is by frequenting a competitor.

Examples of digital marketing fails (broken windows)

The last time I gave a workshop on the Broken Windows Theory and how it related to marketing, a participant gave me feedback that I needed to include more web-based and digital examples. And, she’s absolutely right.

So to fix that, I’ve started collecting digital examples of broken windows. Taking inspiration from one of the blogs I read for fun, McMansion Hell, I’ve added parody comments to the photos.

Without further adieu, enjoy!

Priority Pass website with residence spelled incorrectly

Another fun fact about this one: I was nice and emailed their support department over a month ago and let them know about the typo. I got a standard, “thanks for your feedback” macro response. But did they fix it? Nope.

Cooking light recipe missing ingredients

So much for wanting to make this recipe

Branding to millennials web banner where millennials is spelled wrong. It also shows only white men and they are using their technology in ways that looks like work. There is only one woman in the photo. She's white, and taking a selfie

Thanks to a friend for sending me this one. Beyond the typos, my friend pointed out that the graphic is also problematic; it only shows white millennials even though millennials are incredibly diverse, and the only woman depicted is using her technology to narcissistically take a selfie.

Linked in notification, saying I haven't connected with a coworker for 2 years, even though I work with him every day

Let’s be real here for a minute: We really know why this came up. Phil hasn’t had a need to get on LinkedIn in a few years and they want him back, because eyeballs mean ad revenue. So it’s more about getting him back than doing to me a favor. But to me, it feels like that ex who tells your friends to tell you that they “just hope you are well” in hopes you’ll take that as a cue to contact them.

To give LinkedIn credit, this may be helpful at a large organization where you don’t interact with almost everyone every day. So, for this one, it could be a simple change to the algorithm; only show these messages if it’s an organization of x (200?) employees or more.

Screenshot of a law firm website where the photo of the lawyers is pixelated in a way that gives them a weird halo/aura around their heads

Two ideas of how this might have went down:

Option 1:

Web designer: Can you send me a high resolution version of the photo of you in the courtroom?

Lawyers: Sure. Here you go.

Web designer: Um, that’s low resolution. Can you send me the high res file?

Lawyers: We sent you the file.

Web designer: Yes, I know, but you sent me the low res file

Lawyers: We sent you the file!!!! Just do your file.

Web designer: (sigh) Fine. I give up (or a stronger version of this)

Option 2:

Web designer: We need high quality photos for the website

Lawyers: How much is that going to cost?

Web designer: (gives number)

Lawyers: What?!? That’s too much money. Ted’s kid does a great job taking photos. We’ll just have him do it with his phone.

Web designer: Those won’t look good

Lawyers: They’ll look fine…

On another note, the reason I ended up on their website in the first place is because of some entertaining billboard replacement.

A billboard for a law firm that represents drunk driving cases. Below it is a billboard for Miller Lite

Moving on…

A screenshot of an email promotion from a gym advertising a pizza and beer party after a new workout class

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the hypocrisy of gyms serving pizza and beer. This one is especially fun because the fitness center is tied to a hospital.

An iphone screenshot of Jason's Deli's website with the words "Access Denied" when I tried to click on their nutrition information

Actually they are right, I don’t want to see the nutrition info. I’m happy being blissfully unaware in this case.

iphone screenshot of a website with an error message that says "email not exists"

There, I fixed it.

Fair use disclaimer

All screenshots are used in this post under fair use for the purposes of education, satire, and parody, consistent with 17 USC §107.

Jennifer Lopez’s Dinero music video: Product placement to the extreme

What struck me as over the top this time in her music video, however, was the level of product placement.

I have a confession to make: I’m a Jennifer Lopez fan. I don’t listen to her often, follow her career much, or really know that much about her. I usually have a very rational reason for liking someone, but JLo is just….entertaining. She’s so over-the-top so much of the time and I find it hilarious.

And she didn’t disappoint in her new music video for the song, Dinero. Walking an ostrich, roasting marshmallows over a fire made of cash, spray painting a luxury vehicle, etc. What struck me as over the top this time in her music video, however, was the level of product placement.

A breakdown of product placement in Dinero

(intentionally not linking these to product sites)

Mig Vapor e-cigarette – :28 (product use) :30 product use + hat

Jersey Mike’s Subs – 1:40

Lyft – 2:06-2:18, 5 times

Time magazine – 2:21

New York Yankees – 2:32. Although this might just be her fandom coming through. She is, after all, “Jenny from the Block.”

Jennifer Lopez in a mansion with high end clothing on, but has a Jersey Mikes sub in her hand.
Copyright Disclaimer: Screenshots are used in this post under fair use for the purposes of education, satire, and parody, consistent with 17 USC §107. Manipulated screenshots are considered derivative work and are Copyright © Nicole Finkbeiner, openly-licensed under CC-BY 4.0.

Of course, this is just the obvious. She also wore $4.5 million worth of diamonds in a partnership with Tiffanys and every outfit, accessory, etc. was more than likely carefully selected for maximum commercialization.

But, it’s just this level of ridiculous that keeps me coming back (and snickering as I write this in an airport, annoying the people near me).

JLo, I heart you, but next time, go back to being over-the-top without so many product placements, ok?

Further reading:

Would you rather product placement be obvious or not obvious?

Leah Remini Is ‘Grateful’ for the Support She’s Received from Friend Jennifer Lopez Since Cutting Ties with Scientology



Don’t forget packaging

And yet, what people are mostly buying it for is the packaging, the idea of a luxury product, or a personal relationship.

An in-store display of honey in glass jars next to cheese
Yes, glass jars cost more, but in this case, they also communicate “high quality” so they can charge a higher price. Note the placement of this display is near produce to communicate freshness and next to high-quality cheese, to emphasize the luxury of the product.
Honey in small glass jars that's been labeled for specific purposes, such as
Honey for various purposes? I doubt there’s much of a difference. And $4.49 per small glass jar communicates these as a luxury good (and potential gift item)
A round container of honeycomb with the honey still in it.
Honeycomb included in honey takes a gift to a whole new level of interesting and luxury, with a hefty price tag. Question: How many people know what to do with raw honeycomb?

The past few years, I’ve become very familiar with bees, and everyone’s favorite product from bees, honey.

As my fiancé, the beekeeper, would tell you, you can’t judge the quality of honey by the color or what it says on the package, you judge it by “the bubble test,” essentially turning a jar of honey upside down and watching how fast the air bubble moves to the now-top of the jar. The slower the bubble, the better the honey.

And honey supposedly purported to be from only a single plant (i.e. clover honey or lavender honey) isn’t always accurate either, as bees go where they please and like variety.

Now that you know all of this, you can see my amusement when I walk into a food store and see the varieties of honey available and the pricing related to them. The vast majority of the price differential is the packaging.

  • Honey in glass and/or special shaped bottles looks more expensive (and thus can command a higher price)
  • Including honeycomb greatly increases the price
  • Marketing honey as single source means smaller amounts for more money
  • Honey from far away feels exotic and special, resulting in an upcharge
  • Labeling honey for special purposes (such as “honey for cooking” and “honey for tea”) encourages people to buy more for these various purposes
  • Honey that seems special encourages people to give them as gifts

And yet, what people are mostly buying it for is the packaging, the idea of a luxury product, or a personal relationship. I recently purchased from thredUP and received my “used” clothes very prettily wrapped in paper, trying to emphasize their quality (vs. buying from Goodwill). Similarly, when Molly & You (formerly Molly & Drew) sends your order, it always includes a personal note and sometimes even a gift.

I’ve noticed similarly how many products I avoid, not because the product isn’t good, but because the packaging is terrible, such as a greek yogurt that I no longer buy because the lid is cheap and breaks too easily.

An opened shipping box of Molly & Drew bread mixes with a handwritten note that says
Molly & You (formerly Molly & Drew) orders come in a plain box, but includes a personal note from the person who packaged this. And, in this case, a surprise of a free pancake mix. Hopefully they can continue this personal touch as they continue to grow.

My challenge for you: Take a look at your packaging, whether it’s actual product packaging and shipping or packaging of your service.

  • Think about how your messaging is or isn’t extended through your packaging.
  • Do your customers like your packaging.
  • Are you losing/gaining customers due to your packaging?
  • What can you do to improve the packaging experience for your customers?


The formula for selling viral toys, getting you to buy more

Create a viral marketing campaign around certain toys using social media influencers.
Undersupply the market with the toy. The limited amount furthers the frenzy and increases the desirability since now only a select number of consumers can get them (exclusivity)….


  1. Create a viral marketing campaign around certain toys using social media influencers.
  2. Undersupply the market with the toy. The limited amount furthers the frenzy and increases the desirability since now only a select number of consumers can get them (exclusivity).
  3. Launch PR campaign, supply media organizations with a few of the toys so they can them away as part of their holiday feel-good campaigns.
  4. Parents promise their kids the toy for Christmas, but can’t get it.
  5. Parents buy substitute toys for Christmas.
  6. After Christmas, toy manufacturer floods the market with the toy.
  7. Parents buy the toy when it becomes available, so now the parents have bought toys twice for the season: the substitute toys for Christmas day, and the desired toy in January or February.

And yet, what do I remember about my childhood holidays?

  • My grandfather building a gingerbread house with me.
  • Seeing and playing hide and seek with my cousins.
  • Putting together my family’s Christmas pyramid and being amazed by how the candles made it work.
  • Candlelight services.


Good in theory, bad in execution

I often use this phrase when something that involved a solid plan with great thought behind the plan turns-out badly.

One of the main reasons that I like this phrase is that it acknowledges that strategic thinking may not always yield good results. And, if something does go wrong, there may not be someone or something responsible for the issue.


  • A public relations director planned the perfect timing to distribute a press release to maximize news coverage. And, two hours after releasing it, a major community leader’s house burned down, taking all attention away from the release.
  • A bride and groom can plan their wedding for the time of year with the least likelihood of weather issues, and a fluke weather pattern can still create bad weather that day.
  • A retirement planning firm bought ads during a TV show series. In the ad, they positioned their financial planner, named Mary, as someone you could trust. One of the episodes of the TV show, unfortunately, was about a famous cult leader also named Mary and how she duped so many out of their fortunes.

You can almost always learn some things from incidents that execute badly, despite the best planning, but sometimes they are simply flukes. The trick is to know the difference.