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The audience you can’t do without

12 November, 2019

Today’s news is generally depressing and often divisive. As I write, the obvious candidates are Trump, Brexit and the climate. But there are enduring lessons here for us as brand marketers.

The audience you can’t do without

Last week I saw Ed Miliband and Cambridge University’s Emily Shuckburgh in conversation around Climate Justice. It made me think about where campaigners need to focus more, how important it is for anyone communicating to define a hopeful or positive message, and to engage exactly the right audience with the right pain points.

With the climate debate at least, we have roughly three groups of people: eco-activists at one end, climate-change deniers at the other (both of them noisy and visible), and in the middle the largest but least visible group: people who give little time or attention to either side because they are too busy, preoccupied with other issues or simply don’t see it as important enough. As Ed Miliband said, many of his constituents are ‘more worried about getting to the end of the week than the end of the world’.

To date much of the climate conversation has focused on the negative impacts rather than on any possible positive outcomes – as Ed Miliband reminded us last week, Martin Luther King ‘had a dream’ not a nightmare. To engage the wider population with the climate emergency, the group in the middle really need to hear about how greener technologies can create jobs and boost incomes in their area (‘…predicted to create 2,000 permanent jobs in Bedfordshire by 2024…’), or perhaps how change means improving their family’s lives through better air quality and less traffic – but only if the claims are specific, factual and relevant. Ideally the claims relate to reducing ‘pain’ and creating better lives.

In fact, this is exactly what we do every day with commercial brands. We take time to understand the target buyer’s busy life as a whole and define exactly what pain the brand addresses, the jobs it does for them, zooming in on these and how best to speak about them. Sometimes we use rational argument (‘proven to boost your yield by 22%’) but the most powerful messages are a little more dream-like, tapping into the emotions, bringing the viewer into the picture by creating a powerful image of positivity, hope or belonging. We did just this when we developed the ‘You’ll be glad’ campaign for our client Bayer Crop Science, to articulate the feeling that farmers experience when their choice of crop performs well. From a consumer perspective, Nike exemplified this brilliantly with their Londoner campaign.

So, another reminder for B2B brands from the wider consumer world: think long and hard, and in detail, about the lives of the most important target group: the audience you can’t do without.

Campaigns that need to motivate large audiences or drive change in a big population may also need to consider, or at least identify, their ‘middle’ audiences – those who influence a buyer or need to be passive supporters – to see what gets them engaged. But, in all cases, do your best to create a relevant, positive ‘dream’ built on the very specific ‘pains’ and motivators each group has.

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