When Stereotyping is Good- Target Marketing

I learned what one of the biggest business mistakes are right away when in College; target marketing. Being a young woman who attempted to live an entrepreneurial life, I wanted all the customers all the time. Like many business owners, I threw dense advertising content into the wind expecting to attract everyone. That strategy made sense to me because my products and services were ideal for many different types of people. I also wanted to get the most out of my advertising.

And, that is where many businesses go wrong.

Conversations with clients almost always go as follows:

“who is your target market”


No. Your target is not everyone. You might want all the clients, we all do, but you cannot advertise to everyone with in a single campaign. What appeals to a 20 year old male isn’t the same as a 40 year old Mother of three.

There is an image that visually explains this (two, actually). The darts in these images are your advertising and costs related to. When trying to target everyone your attempts will miss the target, thus costing you time and money with little, at best, to no return on investment. When you segregate the audience you are more likely to reach a customer profile type. No, you wont be getting the attention of “everyone” but you WILL get the attention of some people and not wasting vital business revenue.

Left Image- no target market defined. Right Image- target market defined.

This is where you need to start stereotyping. I know, stereotyping isn’t nice. In advertising, it is nice and necessary. You must know your customer if you want to get in front of them. Some questions that I like to know are:

  • how old are they
  • what gender
  • where do they live
  • what tv shows do they watch
  • what books do they read
  • what events do they attend
  • what groups are they in
  • what influencers do they follow
  • what books do they read
  • what events do they attend
  • what special occasions do they celebrate
  • what emergency or challenges are they dealing with
  • who is important to them
  • how do they spend their time online? social media choices, videos, reading, podcasts etc
  • what radio stations do they listen do

Those are just a few questions that I think about when creating a campaign to target a specific audience. There’s the standard “age, geography, education, values, etc.” but following the basics, my questions can get pretty flexible and numbered. That is something you, as an entrepreneur or advertiser, will need to determine on a case by case basis.

Now, why would I want to know what tv shows a possible customer watches, events they attend, or emergencies they are dealing with? Lets say you are selling a new gourmet cook book; Stereotype your customers as being those that probably like watching cooking shows, following food influencers, and maybe going go food related festivals. Great! With just that small amount of information you will be able to put your business and product in front of probable future customers. With this new information, you can buy YouTube advertising that run during food related videos, find food blogs to advertise on, create a radio jingle around the same date of a food festival, or run a commercial during a popular cooking show.

But wait! There’s so many cooking shows, which one would be best?

I have a wonderful cookbook called, “Thug Kitchen”. I’m a 41 year old vegan, single mother, with a very off-kilter way of thinking and living; Thug Kitchen is a great cookbook for me. Do you think that my Grandmother would have appreciated it? Not so much. Even though you know that your target market loves cooking, you do need more information than that. This is where age, lifestyle, family situation, and more, come into play. In fact, age is a HUGE factor from the first step on. Age alone can get you started down the right road. (Perhaps I buried a lede). Younger people would watch “Good Eats” (it has a very Bill Nye the — Food Guy? ambiance), while a much older demographic might be interested in “Two Fat Ladies”.

And at last, it is important to know what emergencies or challenges your potential customers are facing during your advertising. You don’t want to try to sell that cookbook to Australian’s during the fires or New Orleanian’s in the summer of 2005. If you don’t recognize what your customer is going through you are being very insensitive- first, and will be a huge advertising fail- second, and probably destroy your business reputation entirely.

Knowing your target audience, and knowing where they linger (in person and online), what they think, value, love, want and need, are all vital to your success. Well established companies like BMW wouldn’t dare say that their target market is “everyone”. Stop telling your graphic designer, content writer, or marketing specialist that your target market is “everyone” and sit your ass down to think about it before they ask. Yes, in some cases it is the marketing specialist’s job to help you determine the target market, but you should already have some level of a grasp on that.

Get out of here
and go
stereotype some people!

All written content on page is created by and copyright of Ana Clark.

Ana from Canada is a business and creative writer of various topics. She favours business, mental health, LGBT, family, art, music, and media related topics. Ana’s has a sharp tongue (fingers?) and doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind about social matters.

Ana is educated in advertising and marketing communications, graphic design, and writing.

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Dart board #1: Tevin Lwaanda
Dart board #2: Anastase Maragos

Thank you to the photographers.