Episode 84 – The Challenge of Marketing to Your Fan Behavior


DECEMBER 15, 2022


I imagine many of you have watched some or all of the famous Mad Men series from AMC. If I’m right, then you know that the lead anti-hero, Don Draper, was not a fan of consumer research. He preferred to sleep with the market researcher over listening to her report. 


American marketing remains plagued by a disinterest in strategic marketing to known behavior within a defined audience. Only the slowest growth industries like Big Food have taken it seriously.


American marketers want to be promoters of brands. And this attraction to the job usually tips the scale toward apparel-style marketing. Tell the consumer what is cool and make them want it. 


Point and Seduce. Any wonder why heterosexual women disproportionately enter the marketing field in the U.S.? The gender socialized in seduction has a built-in advantage in appearing plausibly the best option for the job. 


The advent of the most unholy of media platforms- instagram – only exacerbated this very non-analytical approach to marketing in America. 


Actually, let me set up a continuum in your mind, so I can make myself crystal clear.


On one end we have apparel or liquor marketing, where the designer or the celeb founder simply tell the market to buy their sh*t because they are the arbiter of cool. The motivation to purchase is an unconscious desire to enter the symbolic world of the brand and make yourself known as a member of an in-club. Attractive rarity. That’s what ‘cool’ amounts to. And its all based on contextual point-and-seduce. 


On the opposite end of this continuum, we have academic segmentation-driven consumer marketing aimed strategically at a highly specific audience that will nudge topline upward in very unsexy categories devoid of any kind of rarity or cool-ness.


The fashion world is notorious for creating trends and rocketing brands to unicorn status again and again. This started with Ralph Lauren in the 1980s and kept repeating itself again and again, most famously in the crazy Kate Spade hand bag trend in the 1990s. You could now stuff your boyfriend in your handbag, it was so damn big. 


There are categories where telling people what the next new thing is is all that marketing does. Point. Seduce. Manipulate. I find it nauseating personally. In these industries, there is not a lot of audience analytics except in the targeting of media. The idea of making an argument of any kind other than seduction makes little sense to professionals trained in this approach. 


It is the most arrogant and elitist possible form of marketing one can imagine. And it does work, in specific cultural classes of good. 


But, in most CPG categories, pointing and seducing just doesn’t work to drive trial.


Most consumer categories are not that trendy or fashionable. Consumers really do need an argument to switch, especially if they’re going to pay more. And the early adopter could be all sorts of people in all manner of tribes. 


The argument does NOT have to be a rational or a utilitarian one either. It could involve fear, hope, moral aspiration, even sexual aspiration if you sell premium vibrators, etc. Most importantly, consumer brands operate in categories where you have to play by functional rules, even if your competitive advantage is flavor, organic purity, etc. 


Convincing people that ‘keto’ is the next thing is a broad cultural process which brands don’t create or control. But brands can ride these trends and do. 


Yet, the recurring presence of attribute fads and trends does not mean that consumer brands should simply take a celebrity marketing approach to the art of persuasion. This would be a very expensive option best suited for large public holding companies.


Instead, the style of persuasion I recommend, and describe at length in my newest online course, is one where you make your products agents of transformation in the consumer’s ordinary, everyday life. 


Conveying the human context and emotion of this everyday magic with humor, playfulness and creative shock and awe is what works to transform your product line into something enticing.


The key with creative that works is NOT an academic-style quantitative segmentation. This is unnecessary until you hit the Later Stages of slow growth.


What you need is to identify the killer outcome and its emotional power.


Then unleash your argument in powerful, video storytelling aimed at a specific audience, either demographic or tribal. Pick the audience based on their enthusiastic presence within your fanbase.


This means you shouldn’t invest in expensive paid marketing campaigns until you understand your fanbase pretty well. 


Whatever you do, don’t fall for the arrogance of apparel marketing,if you want your marketing messages to drive awareness and new customers. 


Unless, of course, you do sell apparel, jewelry, or liquor. In this case, you have a pretty easy marketing job as long as the budget is massive. 


That’s all for now folks. 

As always, be safe out there.