The other day I was making an infrequent trip to a shopping mall, and I happened to walk by the seasonal photo set (one of the reasons that my mall visits are infrequent, by the way). On the set was a screaming toddler and well-meaning adult in a terrifying Easter Bunny costume. It was classic: kid screaming, hobo in rabbit costume shifting uncomfortably, parents trying desperately to stem the tide of tears and a photographer busily recording the entire fiasco for posterity. It was hilarious.
Even when my kids were young enough to care, my wife and I rarely forced them onto the lap of some disguised stranger in a seasonal costume. Somehow we just knew that it was going to end badly, and the few times we broke down and tried – it inevitably did. So why do parents keep going back to these encounters if they’re so traumatic? Oddly enough, it’s a case of mistaken target audiences.
You see, parents take their kids to the seasonal photo set in the mall because parents want a picture of their smiling offspring in a cute, seasonally-appropriate setting. Unfortunately, these parents let their desire for a perfectly captured memory cloud the fact that they don’t represent the whole target audience. The most important target audience for the whole Easter Bunny experience – the kids – want nothing to do with it. They are afraid of the costume, they hate the photographer and they absolutely, positively will not ever care whether they had their picture taken with the Easter Bunny when they were four years old. That’s the print that they find in an old shoe box when they are 32 years old and throw in the garbage.
Businesspeople who insist that they advertise only on programs that they watch are making the same mistake. Who cares if you like Dancing With The Stars? It doesn’t matter! The only question that matters is this: Do your customers and potential customers watch Dancing With The Stars? If they don’t, you are wasting your money and hurting your business, just so you can see your TV commercial on your favorite show. You may despise Real Housewives of Wherever, but if your target audience is addicted to it – then that is where your branding message needs to be. Period.
Think target before you think message, media or anything else. Your kids will thank you for it.