Volume 14 No. 1: Why Targeting Everyone is a Bad Idea

Reaching large audiences is powerful. But they still need to be the right large audiences. 

Because even the biggest brands can't afford to skip targeting altogether. Even on mass-reach marketing channels like TV, radio and print. 


What should targeting look like for mass marketers?     

Each week, we break down another marketing concept so you can skip the hype and get directly to what works. 

Mark Ritson recently published an article with MarketingWeek titled “Even sophisticated mass marketers need targeting.” The article explores marketing’s current focus on mass marketing, as popularized by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute. This has shifted attention away from the previous trend: tight targeting.  

But even highly skilled mass-marketers face challenges in defining who is and who isn’t in-market for their offering. P&G sells products like toilet paper, detergent and toothpaste. According to Marc Pritchard, P&G’s Chief Brand Officer, his potential market and the total population are almost identical. But for most brands, that’s not the case. 

For example, Pampers invested heavily in mass marketing over the years but still struggled to connect with their audience. They reached 70% of American parents, but only 5% of households in the “diapering phase.” That’s pretty painful. And expensive. Most brands can’t target like this and survive. 

The evidence behind mass marketing's value is solid. There is incredible value in reach and visibility. But there should absolutely be an audience strategy guiding how mass-reach channels are used. Marketers should target a defined segment of buyers that looks beyond those who could one day be in-market to those who are likely to be so.  

We already see this strategy play out in other contexts. As a presidential candidate, it’s simply not time or cost-efficient to visit every zip code. So you visit those with the greatest potential to provide support. The same approach should be taken by marketers. 

Begin by understanding your “bullseye” target. This group is focused on your ideal customer, the one you're probably also targeting through digital ads. It’s their need-states and mindsets that should drive creative and indicate consumer dimensions needed to define the range and scale of your potential market... Who else shares similarities with your bullseye audience? Is there anyone who may act in an influencing role for this group? It shouldn’t take long to find a large, but valuable, audience to reach. 

Key Takeaway: Even mass marketers must spend time learning how to reach the right audience. Not understanding your target audience is hard to defend given the cost. And the missed opportunities.  


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