Brand Positioning: Defining The Target Customer

Derrick DayeJune 11, 20124 min

Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing oriented leaders and professionals like you build strong brands. BSI readers know, we regularly answer questions from marketers. Today we hear from Terry, a Vice President of Marketing at a National restaurant chain in Atlanta, Georgia who has this question about defining the target customer.

Hi I came across Branding Strategy Insider via Google search for brand positioning statements and defining the target audience when your product has a consistent purchase decision maker but a broader user base. I think my Google search just made things even less clear as I read about target markets vs. target audiences vs. target customers…

When a product (like ours) has a decision maker that is typically women, but appeals to a broader audience of adult men and women, and even their kids (which of course we can define further with demo/psycho/emotional needs)—how do you handle that in your positioning statement? We market primarily to the female decision makers, and need to ensure our menu offerings, menu ‘packaging,’ high-touch service elements, etc. are in place to appeal to women, but we’re not ONLY a place for women. Lots of dates, friend groups, families, business lunches etc. Not an uncommon situation—kid’s products would face the same thing and many retail establishments as women make so many purchase decisions. But how does your positioning statement address that?

Thanks for your question Terry. The Blake Project’s brand positioning statement allows for primary, secondary and tertiary target customers, but when we work with clients, we are often more flexible than that given their individual situations. The primary purpose of defining target customers in the brand positioning statement is to establish the target customer clearly in mind when thinking about brand benefits and relevant differentiation. The more detailed the target customer description, the more powerful and nuanced the brand’s unique value proposition can be. It will also help later when marketers need to develop marketing and media plans. We like to talk about defining the bulls-eye of the target so that you have a firm understanding of your primary customer, but knowing that your brand will also appeal to people outside of this bulls-eye.

Often, there are also purchase influencers and purchase approvers, especially in B2B situations. In fact, in B2B situations, there are sometimes committees of people involved in the purchase decision. Regarding target customers versus target audiences versus target markets, to a large extent, different people use these terms to mean the same thing. For manufactures, often the targeting question is “Should our primary target be our direct customers (distributors, retailers or resellers) or should it be the end consumer?” Our answer almost always is, “It should be the end consumer.”

It is very important to get inside the head of your ideal or primary target customer as much as possible when positioning the brand. For instance, we have positioned four different wealth management firms, two banks with wealth management divisions and four insurance companies with investment management components. All of those organizations had hugely different definitions of who they were targeting regarding wealth/investment management. For example, here are four different descriptions of who you might think would be the same person, a higher net worth individual:

  • Self-made millionaires (first generation wealth) who have $1,000,000 or more to invest and who seek public recognition for their achievements
  • Retired people living on fixed incomes who were previously “burned” when their retirement portfolios significantly decreased in value, reducing their confidence in their futures (who have at least $300,000 in investable assets)
  • People who have investable assets of at least $500,000 and who appreciate a smart, analytical approach to both fundamental and technical market analysis; many of these people would have previously managed their own portfolios
  • People who have investable assets of at least $500,000 and who are weary of the New York City stock broker approach to client management

Regarding target markets and restaurants, we are aware of one restaurant chain whose target markets are so diverse that one set of customers considers it to be a “special occasion” restaurant for which they would dress up, while another market considers it to be their everyday casual dining restaurant of choice and feel completely comfortable dining in jeans and t-shirts. The first market may only dine in this restaurant once or twice a year (or less), while the second market is likely to dine there on a regular basis and usually without much forethought. Consider how this restaurant must cater to both markets.

Terry, see here for more on defining the target customer.

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  • Darren Coleman

    June 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Great question and interesting blog post response. Thank you.

    The B2B point is complex but I agree with you. When we’re asked about B2B customer focus we say the primary focus has to be the end consumer that buys your clients’ goods / services. Why? You take this end customer insight to your client and demonstrate how you can engage, add value etc., to their overall proposition in the context of this end consumer. You’ve gone a step further. We find this helps cement the relationship.

    My concern with the above business is that your positioning may become blurred. I do wonder if such a broad range of segments would eat at the same place….

    Good luck!

  • Nidhi

    March 12, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    In the restaurant case, it can be the aspiration value and affordability. For some it would be a next door joint where they can dine everyday, while for some it would be affordable only on special occasions and thus aspirational in some sense.

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