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.

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.

Breast Cancer Sponsorship, is it really a good thing?

“Of course cause marketing is a good thing,” I thought to myself. But, the counterargument, “The adoption of social responsibility through cause-related marketing as a business strategy is unethical” by Peggy Kreshel changed my perspective.

Let me start by saying that I absolutely believe in the search for a cure for breast cancer and all harmful diseases and I support any woman, family, friend, affected by breast cancer. This post is merely to discuss whether or not marketers should be involved in the process.

For my Masters in Advertising, I had to take a course titled, “Advertising and Society.” The textbook we used was “Advertising and Society. Controversies and Consequences” edited by Carol J. Pardun. The book was set-up with a point and counterpoint for every argument. At first, it struck me as odd that there would even be a counterpoint to cause marketing. “Of course cause marketing is a good thing,” I thought to myself. But, the counterargument, “The adoption of social responsibility through cause-related marketing as a business strategy is unethical” by Peggy Kreshel changed my perspective.

Why is breast cancer such a popular sponsorship choice?

One of the most popular causes to sponsor is breast cancer. Everywhere you look, particularly in October because it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are pink ribbons, pink shirts, pink products, etc. Kershel points out that there are three main reasons breast cancer is the end-all, be-all of organization sponsorship:

  1. Breast cancer is a safe bet when it comes to corporate sponsorship. Who really is going to be against curing breast cancer? Pretty much no one. But, another cause, such as AIDS, is not such a safe bet. There are a lot of sexual connotations about AIDS and what lifestyles contract AIDS. So, by supporting AIDS research, corporations risk offending some of their consumer base who have negative views about AIDS and those that contract AIDS.
  2. Breast cancer has an easily recognized symbol and color. Everyone knows it and knows what it means to attach a corporation’s name to it.
  3. Women have significant buying power when it comes to their families and their home. Breast cancer sponsorship is an easy way for a corporation to show middle-aged women that they are their friends.
breast cancer pink ribbon pin and reflection
“Breast cancer reflection” by Williami5, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What’s controversial about corporations sponsoring breast cancer?

Two of Kreshel’s answers are the following:

  • “…decisions regarding resource allocation in some of the most vital arenas of public welfare – health, environment, education – are made by marketing professionals and corporate executives focus on corporate needs and objectives, rather than by professionals in the relevant areas…Do corporate decision-makers have the knowledge base and experience to weigh the efficacy of these approaches to solving the social problem?” (198). Basically, what we have now, through corporate sponsorship, is millions of dollars going to causes based on what will be best for the corporation vs. what is best for society. And, it’s encouraging us to only focus on causes that have marketing and sponsorship opportunities rather than those causes that need the funding the most.
  • “The fact that the disease [breast cancer] is increasing in industrialized nations suggests the possibility of environmental factors” (198). But, “[feminist] emphasis on ecological factors…is not shared by groups such as Komen and the American Cancer Society. Breast cancer would hardly be the darling of corporate American if it’s complexion changed from pink to green” (Ehrenrich as cited in Kreshel, pg. 198). This is a tough pill to swallow, but it brings up a good point. Causes that are sponsored by corporations want to stay on their good side and stay neutral so the corporations see no risks and all benefits when sponsoring them. So what if, as suggested, breast cancer was linked to environmental factors? The environment is a hot political issue right now and, if Komen and the American Cancer Society were to give those environmental factors their proper emphasis, they risk loss of sponsorships because they will be seen as swinging to one side politically. In this way, corporations are shaping the path to the cause. If true, it also creates an ethical issue for researchers of breast cancer. Will they tell the truth and risk their corporate funding or will they remain silent?

Overall, I’m glad that corporations give money to causes and I do support corporations and businesses who give money to charity. However, reading Kreschel’s full argument really has made me less-likely to jump on any cause-marketing bandwagon. Perhaps we need to find another solution that allows corporations to give money in a way that shows social charity/responsibility, but still allows the money to be distributed to where it truly needs to go while also allowing causes the freedom to do what is best for their cause.

Addressing the Question: Measuring Advertising ROI

One of the hardest questions, I think, for marketers and advertisers to answer is the dreaded question “How can I measure my advertising?” because, unfortunately, it just isn’t that simple. That isn’t to say that there is no way to do it, it just is a lot more complex than most would think. So, this post is a listing of my three favorite ideas on how to explain the complexity of advertising return on investment  (ROI) to someone when they ask the question.

The Team Concept

Especially helpful if the person plays or watches sports, for this explanation, you ask the person to think of a team sport, such as hockey. Then, ask the person to identify only one person from the team who responsible for the most recent win of that team. Depending on what type of sports fan they are, they might mention the coach or the star of the team, but the reality is, it takes the whole team to win or lose a game. Each person plays a part in the end goal. Then you can explain how advertising works similarly, because some combination of advertising, promotions, and other marketing caused the purchase through reach, branding, frequency, etc.

Google does a good job of explaining this in the video below. You only need to watch the first minute of the video though. After that, they try to provide you with a solution that also isn’t reasonable because it assumes all communications come from the company (friends and family are a huge part of purchase decisions!) and assumes only an online strategy. Nonetheless, they highlight the team approach very well.

Go Ahead and Do a Survey

Especially if you are being asked by someone who likes numbers, actually doing a “How did you hear about us?” survey will help your case. Those of us in advertising and marketing know that people have no idea where they see or hear things or, at a grander scale, even what causes them to purchase something. But others don’t. For these people, a simple, “How did you hear about us?” will help you prove the problems with measuring advertising ROI because people will report seeing or hearing from you in a lot of places you weren’t.

I used this approach years ago using Facebook advertising. I created Facebook ads that linked to a “please contact me” style form. The only way to get to the link and the form was through the Facebook advertising. But, just to prove my point, on the bottom of the form was the “How did you hear about us?” question with a listing of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc). Keeping in mind that they could not get to the survey through any other means than Facebook and the fact that they had just clicked on the link. Now, here’s the results: 50% of respondents clicked on some other social media site than Facebook. I know, I was shocked too, but that’s completely the truth.

Tell Me About Your Last Major Purchase?

Probably my favorite way of showing the difficulty of measuring advertising ROI, however, is to ask the person about themselves. I generally pick a car, but you can pick any major purchase, and then just ask them what specific ad caused them to make the purchase.

I used this technique with a friend of mine. In his case, he had just bought a new car so I asked him what specific advertisement had caused him to buy that particular car. At first, he pointed to the 0% financing deal that had just came out. But, after asking him if that really was the only thing that caused his decision, he then talked at length about how his family always buys Fords, how he had read a lot of good reviews on it, how he’d seen a lot of ads about what his particular Ford could do, and even how he had seen multiple ads for the 0% financing. After all of that, he went silent. Then he just said “I get what you mean now.” “Perfect,” I said and that was the end of the discussion.

What’s your favorite way of explaining the difficulty of measuring advertising and marketing ROI?

Household income is not a good measurement of discretionary income

dollar bills with scrabble pieces on top that spell "spend"
Photo from Flickr: 401 (K) 2013

This month, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American housing survey will begin. As part of this survey, census workers will be collecting demographic data including household income.

Household income is a staple in marketing for selecting areas where people are most likely to purchase products or services as well as other uses. For example, if you own a luxury car dealership, you probably want your dealership located in or near an area with a high household income.

Although household income is a quick way to assess an area, it doesn’t really tell the whole story. Consumer discretionary income can vary significantly based on a wide variety of factors that are unmeasured by the simple household income measurement.

Consider the following examples:

Example 1: Number of people in the household factors greatly in the amount of discretionary income

Household 1 has a household income of $75,000. The house consists of a husband and a wife, two children, and a live-in mother-in-law.

Household 2 also has a household income of $75,000. The house consists of a single female with no dependents.

Example 2: Other monetary factors such as debt play a huge role

Household 1 has a household income of $75,000 and consists of a young married couple. They have no debt.

Household 2 also has a household income of $75,000 and consists of a married couple. One attended a private college and now has student loans plus other debts (car, credit card, etc.) totaling $150,000.

Example 3: Cost of living is a major factor

Household 1 has a household income of $75,000 and consists of a retired couple. They live in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Household 2 also has a household income of $75,000 and consists of a retired couple. They live in Chicago, IL.

According to CNN’s cost of living calculator, the equivalent of $75,000 in Kalamazoo is $98,539 in Chicago.

In each of the examples above, do we really expect household 1 and household 2 to have the same amount of discretionary income available? It just isn’t the reality. There are additional factors that, coupled with household income, can give us a clearer picture. But then, of course, there are behavioral factors to consider. My point is, household income is a start, but the only way to get a true picture of discretionary income is in-depth market research.

Lessons from sales series: Words of wisdom from Adams Outdoor Advertising

"We Must Become the Change We Want to See" employee handbook from Adams Outdoor



When I began working for Adams Outdoor Advertising, they gave me my employee handbook, titled “We must become the change we want to see.” But it wasn’t an ordinary employee handbook. First, it was made out of billboard materials.  But more importantly, many sections of the book relate not only to outdoor, or sales, but all aspects of life.  With permission from Adams Outdoor Advertising, here are a few of my favorite sections and quotes from the book:

Section: No knuckleheads on the bus

“Hell is other people” – Jean Paul Sartre

Nothing kills fun faster than someone acting like a knucklehead. So if you find yourself acting like a knucklehead at any point during the day, stop. If you see someone else acting like a knucklehead – help them stop. But don’t be a knucklehead about it. That would defeat the purpose.

Section: The difficult truth about growth

All things in the world are growing or dying.

Adams Outdoor Handbook section on "The Difficult Truth About Growth"

Section: Accountability

…But to be accountable to our clients, we must first and foremost be accountable to ourselves. We must be able to look at ourselves in the mirror at the end of every day and say “I stand by what I did.” If we can’t do that, action must be taken.

Section: Mistakes [in the book, it’s a mirror image of the word]

“Do not fear mistakes, there are none.” – Miles Davis.

If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. Be sure to screw up wildly, creatively, and originally. So long as you have a good rationale for the chances you take and the mistakes that result, and you spend more time being right than wrong, you are doing your job.

Honest mistakes are welcome. But if you make a mistake due to laziness or stupidity and try to use this section as a defense, you’re going to be fired.

Section: The secret to developing a trusting relationship

…It’s so simple that it seems silly to write it down. To have a trusting relationship, you must first be worthy of trust.

Section: The secret to being creative

Orville Wright did not have a pilot’s license.

Twitter, a good marketing tool?

I know I’m picking a fight on this one, but Twitter may not be the best marketing tool for your business or organization. I know this might strike you as odd. After all, you hear about Twitter everywhere and you see the Twitter logo everywhere, but here are my main arguments as to why Twitter might not be for your business or organization:

  • As of December 8, 2010, only 8% of the population was on Twitter.  For rural areas, including the one I live in, the actual percentage is much smaller.
  • In addition, Twitter has a large number of accounts, but not a large number of active users.
  • Twitter may not cost you anything when you are considering only actual dollars in advertising spending, but it does cost you in time. My general rule of thumb is that you should be updating Twitter 4-5 times per day. But, honestly, I fall short of this rule a lot because I simply don’t have the time to devote to updating Twitter plus doing other things I need to do. So, you need to ask yourself, do you really have the time to devote to this medium?

So think of it this way, what if your marketing manager came to you asking you to allow him or her to spend 30-60 minutes of their 8 hour day each day on a marketing program that would reach less than 8% of your market and in a program that very few of those users are actively engaged with? Would you say yes?

Twitter everywhere!

Undeniably, the average person hears about Twitter a lot.  But here’s my theory on why:

From my experience, the top four types of people/organizations that use Twitter are:

  • The media
  • Celebrities
  • Public relations/marketing professionals
  • Politicians

In comparison, in my opinion, the top four types of people/organizations that influence what we see/hear about are:

  • The media
  • Celebrities
  • Public relations/marketing professionals
  • Politicians

So, in following that rationale, doesn’t it make sense that, even though the actual number of people in the US that use Twitter is small the average person hears about it quite often since the people who influence our media the most are those that use it?

A good marketing tool?

So is Twitter a good marketing tool for your business or organization? Maybe and maybe not. What it really depends on is who you are trying to reach. Many businesses, such as food trucks in urban settings, have been very successful using Twitter to promote themselves. However, other businesses may not have that luck. My advice would be to critically look at your target market and their media habits. If you are targeting a group that, in large numbers, is actively using Twitter, then it may be worth using as a marketing tool. However, if your target markets aren’t using Twitter, then you might be much better off spending your time (which is money) someplace else.