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The dilemma of self-centered marketing

“I want most of the money in billboards.”
“I don’t like these graphics.”
“I think this copy needs to be more focused on the company.”

These are typical comments from decision-makers who insist an advertising campaign or communications plan uses the media and message that works for them. Often “I” is not a member of the target audience.

Media strategies editor Jim Meskauskas names this ‘self-centered marketing’. While the term is new to me, the experience is not. Frequently I try to explain personal opinion should be trumped by research and best practices.

Why is this a challenge today?
We’ve moved away from mass media. Today people seek news, knowledge and entertainment in a myriad of ways. The variables are many and are often influenced by the person’s age or stage in life.
People live longer and differently. We’re told the new 60-year old is the old 40.

Methods of getting away from self-centered marketing
The media, the message and the look of the message need to be geared to the target audience. I suggest several methods to people I help with marketing.
• Use generational research that provides the preferences of Generation X, Baby Boomers, etc.
• Use personas that help keep the focus on the target audience. A persona is a make-believe person you’ve given a name, demographic data and a lifestyle. An example: Katie is a soccer mom who lives in suburbia and has a full-time job, two children in high school. What message will Katie read or listen to and where does the message need to be?

Practice civility in marketing
If you’re not a member of the target audience, you need to be neutral. Give up your personal opinions and put yourself in the position of the target audience. It takes research before making decisions. Use general research, focus groups. It takes evaluation after the project. What can you learn from this campaign to help in the next? It takes a commitment to learning, the realization that what worked five years ago is not what works today. We’re talking time and commitment but it’s far better than spending time and money on efforts that don’t accomplish the goals.


Resources
The era of self-centered marketing by Jim Meskauskas
http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/19938.asp

Defining Markets, Defining Moments: America’s 7 Generational Cohorts, Their Shared Experiences and Why Businesses Should Care, a Booklocker.com excerpt
http://booklocker.com/pdf/2780s.pdf

The Power of Personas
http://www.mpdailyfix.com/2006/09/the_power_of_personas.html

More on the Power of Persona
http://www.mpdailyfix.com/2006/10/follow_up_the_power_of_persona.html

Jakob Nielsen
Known as the Web usability expert for years because he builds research and best practices.
http://www.useit.com/