Marketing to Millennials is a hot topic these days, and certainly they're an important audience. But if you're focusing too narrowly on demographics, you're missing a huge opportunity to reach like-minded buyers of all ages.

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Brand strategist Nicole Ertas has developed a sophisticated approach to targeting. She's an executive adviser and recognized global brand strategist who's advised many of the world’s best-known brands, including Jim Beam, Wrigley, General Mills, Kraft, and Nestle.

I invited Nicole to Marketing Smarts to discuss her new book, Free Range Brands: Join the New Breed of Agile Brands. In the book, she lays out a framework for targeting consumers based on their behavior and attitudes, and explains how you can engineer your marketing communications to reach each type of buyer.

Here are just a few highlights from my conversation with Nicole:

Today's successful brands are 'set up to let go' (02:44): "My background is in building those traditional brands, and I've worked with some of the biggest global brands for the last 20 years. I can tell you [the reason they're not as dominant] is not the people behind the brands: They have the best creative agencies; they have all the money. It's really the models that these organizations have been built on to bring these brands to market.

"They were very much built and still live in the construct of an era of one-way messages and very controlled communications. Many of these brands are more than 50 years old. They weren't set up to navigate unpredictability or relinquish control to a community. They were very one-way. And the brands that are surviving today are really different in that they're designed for unpredictability. They're set up to let go, and that's what I call the free-range brand.... It's about being responsive, about being able to reinvent quickly and respond quickly without losing your authentic core."

Target your audience by behavior rather than demographics: Every demographic includes Lords, Lovers, Hackers, and Hawks (09:09): "These are consumer personas that personify the way people behave. In the book, I characterize the different behaviors as Lords, Lovers, Hackers, and Hawks. But...these personas really stem from the values that consumers have, often expressed by Millennials, but also embraced by [Baby] Boomers, as well. And the values are self-expression, influence (consumers want to be influential today), they want to be relevant and they want their brands to be relevant to them, and they expect rapid change and re-imagining. They also expect truth and validity, and because of the social environment today we have transparency that allows consumers to elevate that value.

"So when we think about Lords, Lovers, Hackers, and Hawks, those are just ways consumers behave that express those values, and it's a great way for brands to tap into those behaviors and values to connect better at a human level."

B2B brands get more chances than B2C brands to communicate their core values to buyers (11:54): "Oftentimes, B2B has a lot more interaction, whether it's through their trade channels or distribution channels or customers and contractors versus a B2C, where you might not have all those touch points. B2B has a lot of touch points, so it tends to get more into...your values and what you believe as a company. What is it you stand for? Is it about your customer service? Is that your core value? Is it about the innovation that your'e creating? Is that the core value behind the company? [It's about] making sure that when you think about what you as an organization really value, make sure that that message and that experience comes through at every touch point along the journey."

To learn more, visit and follow Nicole on Twitter at @FreeRangeBrands. And be sure to get your copy of Free Range Brands: Join the New Breed of Agile Brands.

Nicole and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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