Back in 2011 when election season was fast approaching, one thing that you heard repeatedly during election coverage was analysts talking about the importance of the undecided vote. Often in an election it is the undecided who swing the vote for one candidate over another. As a result, there is an incredible amount of focus placed on understanding why people are still undecided between two major candidates (think Obama vs. Romney) and so as a result campaign strategists and speech writers are obsessed with capturing the imagination of the undecided. But, there is a lot of complexity in those undecided numbers, as they include:
- People that are truly undecided
- People that don’t want either candidate to win
- People that didn’t even know there was an election going on
- People that feel the whole system is corrupt
- People that can’t tell the difference between the two candidates
- And so on
So if the undecided are so important in politics, why shouldn’t they be in business?
If we are the Coca Cola company, do we really think that an advertisement or a marketing campaign is going to turn a loyal Pepsi drinker into a Coke drinker? Are we going to be able to turn Red Bull or milk drinkers into Coke drinkers?
People prefer to drink a lot of other things over something thick and syrupy like Coke and Pepsi most of the time, and while a lot of people may drink Coke either regularly or occasionally, a lot of people don’t and won’t. So if we are the Coca Cola company we are advertising to:
- Remind Coke drinkers how great Coke is
- Make occasional Coke drinkers think about having one again soon
- Convince people that aren’t sure about Coke that they should really try it
This reminds me of the old saying “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” (John Wanamaker)
Personally, I believe the percentage of waste is much, much higher than fifty percent because:
- Probably less than fifty percent even see the advertisement
- Twenty percent or more will never buy the product no matter what you do
- Twenty percent or less already buy the product
- Leaving MAYBE ten percent of the people exposed to the advertisement to be swayed by it
The above are just my intuitive estimates. I’m sure someone out there probably has done the research on this and could share a more precise number, and if that’s you, please share in the comments!
A lot of this waste comes from the fact that we as marketers focus on the volume of exposure we can achieve for a product or service, even if we’re using complicated segmentations, personas, and/or behavioral targeting. No matter what, we always end up coming back to the volume of exposure we are able to achieve, because it is something we can measure. We try to segment the market and target our chosen segments with a carefully crafted message and creative, but ultimately most marketers attack the problem by asking this question:
- What do the people who buy my product look like?
When we should all be asking the question:
- Who gives a @*!%?
I like to call this WGAS marketing.
The premise behind it is that there is only a very small, diverse subset of people out there who have any interest in what it is that you’re selling. And so, by trying to talk to everyone that looks like that subset – by age, gender, race, tax bracket or whatever other segmentation parameters you might select to target based on, then you’re still wasting a huge amount of time – and money. Instead, we should be looking at creative ways to expose only those people who have a need (or maybe a want) that we can satisfy with what we’re selling.
Jobs-to-be-Done Isn’t Just for Innovation
We talk about identifying unmet needs and jobs-to-be-done when it comes to innovation, but there is no reason why we shouldn’t keep that line of thinking in mind when it comes to our marketing of a potential innovation (or any product or service). Thinking about the jobs-to-be-done or the needs that the customer is trying to satisfy instead of the commonalities of prospective customers from a targeting/segmentation might change the kind of marketing strategy and execution that you come up with.
You might think in different ways about what success looks like, or consider marketing methods you might otherwise skip. For example, while doing in-store demos of a new food or beverage may cost more per potentially engaged person than traditional advertising, you are much more likely to turn the people you do engage with into customers, and to have a conversation with them, so is it really more expensive?
Or you might do something like what Safeway has started doing, as shown in this New York Times article. Safeway is using its vast amounts of shopper data to engage in WGAS Marketing by offering variable pricing – offering different prices to different customers on the same product. But unlike, the variable pricing of airlines that is based on availability and timing, Safeway is varying the price based on individual shopper behavior.
Done properly, pull marketing can use content as a WGAS Marketing strategy. The key of course if to create content that your WGAS audience will find value in and that will cause them to either take action or to develop a stronger affinity for your brand so that when they are ready to take action that you are either the only brand that they will consider, or firmly planted at the heart of their consideration set.
Another way of engaging in WGAS Marketing is to engage in activities that your WGAS audience will engage with. Companies like Red Bull and Life is Good use events very successfully as a WGAS Marketing strategy mixed together with a traditional segmentation and targeting approach. Red Bull focuses so much on their WGAS audience that their product isn’t even featured on their home page.
For better or worse Camel cigarettes and McDonald’s identified kids as the ‘undecided’ potential customers in their markets and chose to target them as a way of increasing their current and future sales. Larry Popelka in his book Moneyball Marketing talked about how Clorox identified new mothers as a group of ‘undecided’ potential bleach buyers who had something that they wanted really white (diapers) that Clorox could target and grow into long-term profitable customers.
So, as you can see, one of the keys of WGAS Marketing is to not just identify what your current customers look like and to try and attract more of them, but to identify the underlying reasons why someone may have a need to consider your solution (think jobs-to-be-done), or become open to a new solution such as yours because their life circumstances have changed.
So, WGAS about your product or service? Or WGAS about the problem that your solution addresses (if it is something new or innovative)?
Finding the answer to one or both of these questions is the key you need to unlock a source of tremendous new revenue and profits for your business. Are you ready to look for the things that will cause people to care? Are you open to considering alternative marketing approaches that will help you reach the people WGAS?
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