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.

Use your marketing skills to analyze your own spending habits (and save money)

Using this same framework, you can analyze your own spending habits and find what motivates you, what messages work on you, and how you might be able to change your spending habits to save money.

If you’ve studied marketing and advertising, you’ve very familiar with the analysis of potential and current customers.

When analyzing our target market, we ask:

– Who are they?

– What products are they most likely to buy?

– What messages are they most likely to respond to?

– What motivates their purchases?

– What causes them not to purchase?

Using this same framework, you can analyze your own spending habits and find what motivates you, what messages work on you, and how you might be able to change your spending habits to save money.

Two ways to get started:

Analyze your Amazon suggestions/purchase history

Amazon (or any other major online retailer) spends significant resources to understand your spending habits and predict what you are most likely to buy next. Why not use this to your advantage?

For example, a quick skim of Amazon’s suggestions for me indicates that I’m most likely to buy beauty products and kitchen gadgets from them. This makes sense, as I’m very particular about wanting a specific beauty/kitchen product and unwilling to go to 10 stores to find it. At the same time, beauty products can be more expensive on Amazon than in retail. I could save a significant amount of money by going to a brand’s website and finding the products locally in a store. Or, I could save money by being less particular with my purchases.

Analyze your debit/credit card statements

Take look at your debit and credit card statements from a third-party perspective, as if you were analyzing someone in a focus group for your product or service.

What are you spending your money on and where? What’s the repetition of your spending habits? Where are the patterns? What percent of your money is going toward various purchases or categories of purchases?

For example, after I gifted him The Total Money Makeover book by Dave Ramsey, a friend of mine analyzed his own budget from a third-party perspective and what he found was shocking: “The family” (aka him and his wife) were spending $1,400 per month on eating out!

So dedicate some time this week or weekend to taking a look at yourself as a target market and see where you spend your money and how you might change that for the better. 

Plan and budget for specific target market advertising design

I often read free magazines targeted to specific sub-groups or demographics, specifically those that I don’t belong to myself. I find that it helps me understand different perspectives (even if I do get weird looks reading them at coffee shops), but it’s also very interesting from an advertising and marketing perspective to see the advertisements targeted to these groups.

One thing I’ve noticed is, especially with these magazines, it’s very easy to tell who created an ad specifically for the target market and who used one of their regular ads.


  • Realtor ads in magazines targeted towards the LGBTQ community that show a happy heterosexual couple.
  • Restaurant ads in magazines targeting Hispanics showing a group of non-Hispanics dining at the restaurant.

Especially when next to ads that are very targeted to the target market, the generic ads seem like a half-hearted attempt to connect to the target audience or that you don’t understand the target audience, which means it very likely will cause more harm than good.

An older male, a male, and a female on a couch, all three holding one triplet baby
While this photo may be great for an ad for a real estate company advertising in a family magazine, “Need more space? Call us!” this photo wouldn’t work well for magazines target toward singles, urbanites, etc. and would most likely communicate that you don’t “get” your audience.
Photo: “Family Multiplicity” by Edward Webb, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Plan and budget advertising design for specific target markets

If your company plans to advertise in spaces for specific sub-groups or demographics, be sure to include in your budget and project management plans the necessary time and resources to develop specific ads that speak to the target audience. It may sometimes be as simple as changing a photo, but if you want to be truly effective, you need to start the development process from scratch and develop something that specifically speaks to the target audience.

Are we effectively communicating with future-oriented people?

This post starts with the assumption that the work on the three orientations, past, present and future, is accurate. That may or may not be the case, but it’s an assumption for this post.


Wall engraved quote saying, "Our future is greater than our past" by Ben Okri
Photo from Flickr Creative Commons: SAN_DRINO


My friend, we will call her Melissa, is losing weight (very successfully I might add!). But she’s not doing it to look better; she’s losing weight because she foresees, based on family history and other factors, that this will benefit her long-term. My friend Melissa is future-oriented. I am the same way and her comments have made me, a burger loving, pizza craving person, go to Whole Foods for a salad for lunch, not because I feel guilty or want to look better, but because I want to still be healthy at age 60.

If you look at most marketing messages they are focused on the short-term. “Look better naked” reads a billboard for Gold’s Gym, “fast-acting” reads most medicine labels, and “change beginning tomorrow” is the theme of most political ads.  In the same way, many ads appeal to the past-oriented people, mostly through nostalgia. But what about the major subset the population that is future-oriented? Are we communicating effectively to them? We do for some products or services that lends themselves naturally to it, such as financial planning, but often, we forego discussing the long-term benefits in favor of short-term ones.

Perhaps we should start by including our target market’s orientation in our marketing process. For example, if we know that a large portion of our target market is future-oriented, we should talk about more long-term vs. short-term benefits. And, if we have a split target market when it comes to time orientation, craft messages for both.  In this method of thinking, Gold’s Gym would keep their “Look better naked” message but also have messages for those that are future-benefit oriented, such as “Still be able to hike a mountain at age 60.”