Avoiding the Marketing Myth of the ‘Typical Customer’

I am writing this blog the day after England beat Germany in the Euros. The stuff of dreams which will live on forever, according to Rio Ferdinand. As a Scotland fan living in England, married to an English woman, it leaves me is a strange situation. I can see how […]

I am writing this blog the day after England beat Germany in the Euros. The stuff of dreams which will live on forever, according to Rio Ferdinand. As a Scotland fan living in England, married to an English woman, it leaves me is a strange situation. I can see how much excitement it generates, how the anticipation of the next game, the next round, maybe even a final and a win creates a buzz. From a head point of view, I can absolutely understand but my heart just isn’t in it. Sadly, I am an outsider.

This is a flippant example and there are numerous, more serious, examples of this in society, where being an outsider can be based on race, sexuality, gender or for many other reasons.

It is also true in marketing where brands, in general, want to classify their customers based on broad brush profiles and then often don’t consider those who are outside this framework. For example, charities often talk about their supporter base being “older ladies”, yet we know that there are lots of different types of individuals who give to charity. I have even sat in client meetings where the “typical” profile is described, and I have bought their product, but in no way to I fit the typical profile.

The myth of the typical profile

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why a typical profile exists. We need to classify our customers, or certainly what we perceive to be most of them to be, in some way. My worry is that by doing so we miss a large section of the customer base – and as a result, we don’t address them and we leave them feeling that the brand doesn’t get them: a brand they have bought from, and quite possibly love, let’s not forget!

A couple of examples. A few years ago, I did some work with an online beauty retailer. They told us their customers were “18- to 34-year-old single females”. When we did some very basic profiling, we found two other very large and high-spending groups. These were men who bought beauty products (shock!) and married working mums who did their beauty shopping online after the kids had gone to bed. Even just these two groups change the way the brand should talk and sell to their customers – never mind how they recruit new ones. Deep diving a bit more we found the males split into two distinct groups, those who bought for themselves and those who gifted. Again, this totally changes how you engage these groups.

Men buy beauty products too. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Secondly, for an online greetings card retailer (again, broad brush customer was younger females), we found that one of their most profitable groups were older women – much older than expected. In general, they bought a lot of cards at a time but got them sent to themselves to add that personal touch when they were sent. This is quite a distinct group and by changing how they were managed, the retention rate increased substantially with a big impact on the bottom line.

Outsiders are valuable

I’m glad to say that in both cases, the revelations that not all customers are the same were taken on board, changes were made both from an acquisition perspective (including who was shown in TV adverts) and on the retention side.

And to be honest, these were not big segmentation projects; creating numerous distinct groups to be treated differently over time and managed in new and interesting ways. These changes were based on simple profiles and an acceptance that sometimes the “outsiders” are large, valuable groups. Just like in society as a whole.

So, as England’s journey to potential glory continues, it would be nice if someone out there realised that we are not all dreaming the same dream and there are a few of us left in England who don’t want to order a pizza to celebrate.

ASNF

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