Let’s forget the word “target group” — or: How I became the “living-room guy”

Look at this image! Isn’t it horrible? I mean, I never liked this kind of images anyways — these 3d-ish illustrations, power point art style. But to describe what marketing is supposed to achieve by showing a group of people with arrows in their heads .. I mean … take that in! Ever since I wrote my book and I had to think about what to say every time the word “target group” came up, I started to think about, what could be better words to describe it. And trust me, a book about a new way to understand and do marketing needs the word “target group” a lot.

At one point I started to just say “people”. I mean, they are, right? Why not call them, what they are: People that have lives, jobs, families, dreams and fears. Like marketeers, too. Why did we always think that there are marketing departments on one side, and target groups on the other? Weird way of seeing the world, I find.

When on the one side brand are increasingly learning how to become more “human”, to be, behave and talk more like humans in order to be able to create meaningful relationships with the people that are relevant for them, and on the other side we have more and more fragmented, individualized and personalized tiny target groups that we attract through a broad variety of assets by programmatic advertising methods, it is time to call them just “people”.

I recently read this book (Marketing 4.0 by P. Kotler) and was surprised that good old Kotler still has it in him! Instead of still believing what he wrote hundreds of years ago, he continuously updates his philosophies and strategies to what is happening in the real world out there. Good for us, and clever way to monetize ;)

Anyways. In this book he mentions somewhere between Marketing 2.0 and 4.0 the evolution of the image of the target group. We are used to look at them like “deer that needs to be hunted down with a bait”. Hence the imagery like the one in the beginning! But actually we should see them rather as friends. A) That’s what we want them to call us on Facebook, right? And B) That’s like the minimum that you call someone you have some kind of relationship with.

Think about it!

This is the picture I show whenever I can and whenever I want to talk to the people formerly known as “target group” — it is in every keynote, in every seminar or classroom. This picture made me the “living-room guy”, as I was recently referred to … I take that as a compliment ;) Hope it was …

I love this image because it shows normal people. This is, what target groups look like. They eat pizza, have sometimes too much body weight, haven’t cleaned the carpet for a bit too long and have the kind of parties that we would maybe not want to join or rather look at their phones than at our Facebook posts. This is the perfect moment to imagine, that we, the brands of this world, want to interrupt with our “messages”. Imagine you are the brand, you knock at that door, the guys have to put first the pizza then their chairs to the side to get to the door. Then they open it and they see you. What in the world can you say in this very moment so that they let you in and offer you a seat on the sofa? And even if you get there … what’s next? What do you want to talk about? And imagine this conversation needs to go on for 365 days a year. Not easy, my friend. But that’s what marketing is about today (that, plus selling products!)

So. Forget about telling those people what you want from them, and better have a great idea, what it is that YOU can do for THEM. That’s how you defend the pole position of the sofa. And maybe then you realize yourself, that you cannot call a friend “target group”!

consultant and teacher, founder of the relevance methodolody and author of the book #BeyondDigital - find me at www.platschke.de