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An Old Lesson on Target Audience... the iPod Way

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Imagine your name is Steve.

As in Steve Jobs. Head honcho at Apple.

Imagine you're in a shareholders meeting and you've just made a statement—apparently so dramatic, that for the first 33 seconds all you hear is dead silence.

Then suddenly the shareholders go berserk. They start shouting. Some resort to swearing. Others flip you the bird. A box containing Windows XP flies at you as you hastily duck behind the podium.

Heck... this is nasty stuff.

And all this nastiness and frustration seemed to erupt when you made the mistake of saying that the iPod was going to go after just one target audience.

One target audience? What kind of fool talk is that? Oh yeah, we know all those darn marketers say that you should have just one audience. What do they know? Imagine trying to sell the iPod to just teenagers. Or just travelers.

Of course we now know that the iPod is literally a necessity with travelers, teenagers, fitness fanatics, students, business executives and, yes, even grandmas and grandpas. So did the iPod break the rules of staying with one target audience? And how can you argue with one billion dollars in sales? Have all those marketing gurus got their brains filled with sawdust?

Noooooo.... Find out how the iPod looked at "target audience" in a different way. And how you can do not just the same, but actually do one better.

What's lesson 101 in marketing?

You gotta have a target audience.

So the teacher asks you, "Do you have a target audience?" And you say, "Yes, Ma'am, I do. My target audience is chemical companies, with 10-30 people who need help in their computer networking. And the teacher beams from earring to earring.

You missed one thing, Ma'am

For too long, we've learned that our target audience needs to be something tangible. Feel it. Touch it. Shake hands with the audience.

As some bespectacled boffins might say: audience demographics.

But the iPod doesn't care much about the demographics. Nope. Them demographics are fine, son... but what you really need are some sharp-shootin' psychographics as well.

Big words, eh pardner?

So let's take them psychographics and mix them with some grits and you get a nice, fine bowl of emotion.

Irritation. A small word for psychographics. Can you see the irritation running right through the iPod message? They're hitting on a very clear target audience that's not restricted to age or the type of person you are.

They're targeting a problem: the problem of carrying 10,000 CDs in your pocket!

You see, I have an mp3 player. But I don't have an iPod. So every time I travel, I've got to dump the old mp3s and put the new mp3s and then do that all over again, and again, and again.

Two years ago, I was content with my CD Player. One year ago, I was ecstatic about my mp3 player. Now all I want for Christmas is the dang iPod!

And Christmas is long gone, but my pain still remains. And you, me—we can all feel the ouch in our brains.

Not all of us. Not you smug iPod owners. Just us hillbilly folks who haven't got our hands on the iPod yet.

Steve Jobs and his merry band of marketing experts ain't goin' after a 36-year-old Aucklander with a weird sense of humor.

Nope. They're headed right into the ouch of my problem. They know how I have to add, remove, add, remove, add, remove the mp3s on my "outdated" mp3 player.

See, the target audience is based on a specific problem!

Where's the heart of your problem, mate? What's the biggest, scariest, most frustrating issue that gets your audience all pent up and furious?

You see, if you own a graphic design firm, your demographic target audience could be chemical companies, glass companies, chicken fryers, egg beaters or Santa Claus's elves for all I care.

It's when you target the psychographic thought patterns of your audience that things really start to get moving.

Psychographics + Demographics = The KO Punch

If you're the designer mentioned in the paragraph above, you'll quickly hone in on the problems that your customers face.

Over time, however, you may want to polish both the psychographics as well as the demographics. To say it simply: you'll want to drive home the problem to a select audience.

For example:

  • The psychographics = Graphic design that's not world-class

  • The demographics = Fashion houses that expect to look different.

Notice that we're slipping back into demographics? Into a niche market? Hey, demographics work. And psychographics work, too.

It doesn't take Al Einstein to figure out the kind of buckaroos and fame you could possibly have in the future if you actually stop and do the addition.

Notice I said addition. Not one or the other.

Both. And, yes, additions require some planning. So what's the plan?

  1. Find the problem that most interests your audience. (The psychographics.)

  2. Hammer the message home.

  3. Over time, sharpen your demographics, too. (Start focusing on specific audiences instead of "just everyone.")

  4. Sharpen your psychographic message (the problem) now that you're very niche.

  5. If you consciously make the effort to move in a direction where you've got the twin benefits of demographics and psychographics in place, you'll reach place marketers.

It's a place I would be in—if I had that darn iPod!

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Sean D'Souza uses age-old psychology, marrying it to modern technology, on his Web site, Can "psychological tactics" make a difference? Go there and find out.

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  • by Oscar Sat Jun 7, 2008 via web

    I disagree with this analysis. The author is basically saying Apple's target audience are those who didn't want to carry CDs around.
    While this is true it is certainly more important to point out the iPod's target market are first and foremost Teens, in particular those with a high-speed internet connection.
    Apple's iTunes and Ipod's adverstising strategy was based a celeb ads and other promotional events that appeal more to teens. Certainly their product has wide appeal but nevertheless it was the teen market that drove iPod sales and lead its success.

  • by Tommy Sat Nov 7, 2009 via web

    We had to read this article for a class in internet marketing and although it's not in-depth on psychographics it has an element to hit the idea of the importance of them. A good, short, case study (although not backed by research).

  • by claire Wed Dec 2, 2009 via web

    absolute rubbish..waste of my time!!

  • by zak Wed Dec 2, 2009 via web

    as if i signed up to this site just to read this article... what a waste of time. ever heard of referencing?

  • by Dub Wed Jan 13, 2010 via web

    Oscar, Chris, claire and zak...

    Haters...... If you can't learn something from this, or at least try to improve your marketing thought processes with a positive attitude, you should just give up and stick to failure.

    You are depressing, please don't share with the rest of the group.

  • by Imagineimages Sun Feb 14, 2010 via web

    Hmm... actually I don't recall seeing any 'celeb' ads Oscar. In fact, what stuck with me most about Apple's iPod campaigns is that there were never any faces in them; recall the silhouettes with white headphones?!

    Point is, it could have been anyone in those ads (get it?)!

    * 'Thorough analysis and research' indicate that your opinions = my job security

  • by SavannahSaurus Tue Jun 8, 2010 via web

    well, I dont know about anyone else but I liked this article, it gave me exactly what i needed =3

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