My Take On: Honing in on a very specific audience

Josh Peachey's picture
by Josh Peachey

Katie Eborall, Director of Grayling's Leeds department, on why, with all the information we now have access to, honing in on your target audience means more influential and successful campaigns.


I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when someone at Google proposed a campaign that only targeted 10 individuals - their 'Biograhy of Tomorrow' idea.

As marketing people, it goes against our long-standing measure of success. Reach was everything - more opportunities to see equalled awareness, which equalled job done. How could 10 individuals make any kind of meaningful impact? It turned out that Google’s campaign attracted two new global, multi-million dollar Cloud accounts, equating to a massive return on investment that could be directly related back to the PR engagement.

In a world where there are more customer touchpoints and robust tracking measures than ever before for illustrating the impact of our comms, we now also have the opportunity to be more targeted than ever before. This is translating into some of the most strategic and creative PR we have ever seen, backed up by tangible impact that cannot be ignored.

‘Niche work’ is the phrase we are using to describe this at Grayling, and we have identified it as one of the top communications trends for 2019.

Niche work

What does this really mean and why is it proving so effective? As the attention battle intensifies, we are seeing wise brands thinking vertically and doing more with less, focusing on highly specific audience groups, creating advocate communities and galvanising fans to tell and sell their story to their networks.

These audiences can be pre-formed groups, in which brands borrow and build tribes to create loyal bands of influential advocates, a group of individuals with a shared interest, giving brands the chance to find novel ways to engage with unique content, or even one sole individual; fan ambassadors (or ‘fanchisers’) who become our brand ambassadors and tell the story for us to lookalike audiences.

Examples are in abundance, from Honda incentivising existing customers in France to open up their home garages to the neighbourhood to plug a gap in their showroom network, to Benefit riding off the back of the massively successful network of have-a-go YouTube makeup artists like Anna Saccone Joly. As big name brands such as Nike, Microsoft and Adidas lead the way, we are seeing British brands such as M&S, British Airways and ASOS start to experiment.

Getting personal with brand ambassadors is nothing new. For years we have courted journalists, sent them personalised products, invited them to exclusive events. What’s different is the level of detail we have about the influencers, the sophistication of the understanding of customer segments and the recognition that influencers can be found in all places, mediums and guises, leading to a highly strategic approach with unique tactics designed to have an immediate visible impact.

The power of honing in

So why does this work? Like any well-crafted PR campaign, we gain traction by third-party endorsement. That hasn’t changed; consumers still trust third parties and influencers more than brands. The difference is authenticity, coupled with the calibre of audience.

We’re substituting a press release with samples that would take months to appear in a magazine for samples that influencers try, film in real-time and post on their vlogs or Instagram days after you’ve put it in the post.

It’s not just the immediacy of the approach that is proving successful. It’s that the approach hones in on not only a really specific audience segment, but a crucial one - those at the tipping point of making a purchase. They might already be interested and engaged, or a fair-weather customer. Undoubtedly, they resemble your existing customers because they engage with and are influenced by your (already engaged) niche target. This means that the brand can not only have instant visibility but also see a commercial impact that can be tracked.

A great example of this is cleaning brand Minky which saw instant sales success from engagement with one cleaning blogger. The relationship took Minky’s kitchen sponge from a little known £2.50 supermarket add-on product to a trending, sold out, must-have that was being re-sold on eBay for £50.

Minky capitalised on this by making the very few that they did have left only available as part of a pack of products, allowing consumers to try a little more of what they are all about, and kept up the momentum with regular personalised gifting.

Why did this work so well? What Minky did successfully was pinpoint one already engaged and affiliated core customer (i.e. the one that usually brands don’t think they need to prioritise engagement with because they already have their sales), their motivations and their customer journey and let them do the talking. And they built a long-term, meaningful relationship.

Sealing the knowledge gap

In order for niche targeting to work, the level of detail needed about existing and target customers means that it’s no longer enough to make assumptions. Brands need in-depth customer insights. If Google had said it was going after 10 Global CEOs with no other rationale, understanding or research, execs would have laughed them out of the boardroom, because niche targeting will only work if you engage the right individual or group with a solid strategy, and for that, you need hard data.

Over the last five years, technology has had some of its biggest impacts on our work as communicators, for the better. The digital footprint of consumers means we now know more about audiences than ever before. We can therefore be more specific than ‘they are likely to read The Times’. We know what and where they like to eat, we know what websites they’ve visited before and after ours. Sometimes we even know their shoe size and dog’s name.

There is no one way of finding these crucial niche audience groups and it’s a personal journey for every brand but it does rely on all areas of the marketing mix collaborating closely to understand where the opportunity lies. I, for one, am excited to see where that leads to this year.