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Targeting on the world wide web

October 16, 2009

Assignment: Target men, 18-34.

There they are, the ever elusive 18-34 year old males. The single most attractive demographic of any brand. The reason, you wonder? Men tend to spend more money than women over their lives. As for the 18-34 part, it’s thought that when someone is in that age bracket, they can be influenced to pick a brand. Get them early, and there’s a better chance they will stay on longer.

Marketing 101.

Problem is, getting their attention isn’t as easy as just buying Lost on ABC. That’s partly because they aren’t watching Lost on ABC, they are streaming it on their computers or getting it commercial free from Apple, and it’s hard and expensive and even impossible to buy it all (see link for explanation).

So that leaves online.

Because that’s where the bullseye of the mythical demo hands out. On Twitter. MySpace. Facebook. YouTube. Digg. We all know that, but again, reaching someone in that target market is even tougher than getting them on Lost.

The solution: “Go Viral”.

Viral makes us shudder. Creating something for the purpose of going viral is link writing an ad with the express purpose of winning an award at Cannes. (For a good conversation on the topic of winning an award at Cannes, check out the BeanCast episode 59.)

To go viral, one must create something that people in their target market will share. And one can argue and/or suggest a million ways to accomplish that, but one of them is to push the envelop.

Our client let us do that. The same week Pepsi’s let an agency do it. In the same month that 7/11 let their agency do it.

What is it? You can see for yourself. But that’s not the point.

The point is this: by putting something online, that’s targeted to a subset of the population, one risks the entire world seeing it. Yes, I realize that viral means mass. If 10 million people see the thing obviously only a percentage of those people will be in the target market. So creating something that is edgy to one segment of the population could pose risks that it offends another. That was the risk that Pepsi didn’t even know was coming, since it was a brand that took the risk but the ire went upstream.

Is that the result of every promotion?

Maybe. But it’s the dilemma of using the web as a tool to target. If it takes off, more than just the target market will see it and comment. Clearly, that’s something to prepare for in advance.


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