Tackling multiple target audiences? Here’s your cheat-sheet
Anand Nair, Co-founder and CCO at 4AM Worldwide provides perspective on looking at diverse target groups for the same brand and communicating with each of them without losing sight of the larger brand
Brand building requires a strong narrative, a story that can communicate a brand’s core value proposition to all audiences and stakeholders. This story needs to be comprehensive and should be able to remain consistent irrespective of the change in platform or audience.
However, there are two parts to this communication story. How a brand communicates is a function of the transmitter (the brand - B) and the receiver (audience - X) in this equation. The parameters at the transmitter end might be aligned (same values, same tone of voice, same USPs, same design language, etc.) but may differ at the receiver’s end - different audiences, different incentives, different motives, and different understanding.
As a brand custodian (marketing manager or agency), how do you tackle communication in such a situation? Different mediums - online, offline, on-ground, direct, etc., can add to the complexity of communication. How do you solve this equation for constant B with variable X? Let’s try and understand how some brands have done this successfully.
Know Your Audience
A single brand can have multiple target audiences beyond demographic and psychographic segmentation. In addition to the traditional segmentation of B2B and B2C, we have a segment defined by influencers who may influence the purchase decision directly or indirectly and thus define another layer of communication - Business to Influencer (B2I). We also have a segment of the audience that consumes the brand to be able to do business, essentially the distributors, dealers and retailers, whom we define as another layer - Business to Trade (B2T). Each of these audiences plays a critical role in the sales cycle for brands across multiple categories and contributes to brand building as well.
Business to Trade
Distributors and dealers are the intermediaries who handle the distribution of products. For example, when we launched a high-pressure laminates (colloquially known as sunmica) brand a few years ago, we focused on creating a buzz amongst the trade. The key message in the brand story was built around “partnering to help their business grow with ours”. While at a tactical level schemes and incentives worked to help build initial affinity, the partnership story laid the foundation for long-term brand loyalty. This TG, while motivated by the incentives, also seeks respect, which is where treating them as partners makes a huge difference in the larger scheme of things. What one needs to remember is, it is essential to “Partner the trade” in brand communication.
Business to Business
A business audience in most categories differs in terms of size, scale, preferences, requirements, etc. Also, the nature of transactions with the brand varies. Some businesses work on pure technical parameters and look for brands that convey that technical superiority as a differentiator. Some look for stability in a long-term partnership where the assurance that one is not a fly-by-night operator is critical. For the laminate brand mentioned above, communication via newsletters with messaging focused on the science behind the product coupled with advertising in business magazines with messaging around the legacy of the brand helped create strong recall in the B2B space. For another client that operates in the heavy engineering space, our entire communication was built around the legacy and trust story. Here it is truly important to “Build credibility with businesses”.
Influencers are experts who have an in-depth understanding of the product being sold, and they play a crucial role in the end consumer making an informed decision. In categories such as building materials or pharmaceuticals, influencers are one of the most important target groups. Whether it is the painters advising the brand of paint, plumbers choosing the pipes, or carpenters finalising the plywood or laminates, numerous purchase decisions are either made directly by the influencer or massively influenced by them. Doctors who become the key opinion leaders (KOLs) in the pharmaceutical space will influence not only their immediate patients but also the prescription behaviour of other doctors and chemists, who are the second-level influencers. Brands thus need to act as allies to these influencers and make them feel empowered to be able to endorse them in front of an end consumer. They also need to feel brands respect them and their opinions.
In our earlier example of the laminate brand, we made carpenters feel special by sharing t-shirts that read “Wood Ka Engineer”. This fostered goodwill that no other brand had since for the first time, carpenters were made to feel like the experts they always believed themselves to be. Architects and Interior designers form the upper end of the influencer spectrum in this building materials category and we provided them with well-designed premium-looking catalogues to empower them to push the product. What works for this TG is “Influencing the Influencer.”
Business to Consumer
Consumers today are extremely well-informed, so no matter what brand you are, it is critical to respect their intelligence. Sharing the right information, suitably adapted for the right platform and meeting the right expectations are important while building any form of brand content. Thanks to digital media, audiences have a voice to express themselves - whether it is words or images, consumers will speak to the business. Thinking of how the “C2B” angle will work while planning the B2C communication ensures that there are no surprises once a campaign or creative has gone out. Consumer activism is gaining momentum and it is crucial to look at the end consumer today as a much more active participant in communication as opposed to being someone who only consumed what a brand shared and exercised the power of her wallet in response. For consumers, plan by “Thinking of the C2B”
Effective customisation of communication with a consistent core
As a final word, we strongly recommend having a brand manual in place to provide clear guidelines for brand communication across mediums. This will ensure that the tone of voice, design language and core values are always consistent no matter which target audience is being spoken to. The role of brand guidelines is critical today given that businesses sometimes work with different agencies for print, digital, events and TV.
A balance of mass communication delivering the same message to all target groups and audience-specific communication tailored to suit their motives & incentives is the bedrock of building successful brands today. For a brand to build salience, the brand messaging needs to find the right tone for the right audience on the right medium.