Marketing can be a complex, scary domain for a lot of business leaders. It used to be the thicket of jargon that fostered nervousness; nowadays insecurity is multiplied with each reference to the latest social media apps you haven’t heard of.
At its core, however, marketing is a disarmingly simple 3-rule prescription:
1- Focus on a target consumer segment / demographic
2- Learn what those consumers need
3- Create a product or service that meets those needs
Yes, this may be boiling it down a bit too far. As well as utility (Segment: I am a commuter; need: caffeine but don’t have the time or equipment to make decent coffee at home; Service: Starbucks) we know that emotion plays a strong role: consumption is a way for consumer to showcase who they are or want to be. Ergo it’s not enough to meet a need, there needs to be a promise of emotional gain – belonging to a desirable group, bettering oneself, etc.
In reality marketing folk need to tread a fine line between meeting the needs of lots of people (the coffee shop) but creating a sense of exclusivity and belonging (this coffee shop is only for people like me, not everyone). Sometimes this stance works amazingly well – Apple is the world’s most profitable company and currently sells more smartphones than anyone else, yet positions itself as highly tribal, exclusive and expensive. It can also go spectacularly wrong, especially when marketers get the idea that a largely gender-neutral category (such as wine) needs gender-specific products targeted, in the main, at women.
Take the example of wine brands targeted at women. In the grand tradition of the hilariously reviewed Bic For Her pen, which must have sounded good at the strategy meeting (“women need pens they can grip well, and that come in nice pink colours”), wine producers and retailers have for years tried to crack the wine-for-women segment. Generally this has included at least two of the following:
- Cartoonish representations of young slim females
- Pink colours everywhere
- Sparkling fabrics
- A very sweet product
- An upbeat sentence