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Navigating complex audiences

The world feels more complicated than it once did, especially with the potential for marketing campaigns to reach more people than ever before. It’s not just the size of audiences, though – it’s diverse audiences with different potential reactions that creates a challenge for brands looking to align with certain causes.

“In today’s marketing communications, there’s no longer a homogenous audience for these big consumer brands. It’s a highly diverse, very nuanced group of consumers and individuals,” she says.

Scoping out where your brand fits, what’s important, and how that crosses over with your customers’ preferences isn’t easy, but that’s where brands can find success. Michelle says:

“You’ve got to really figure out where your brand’s territory is, what’s credible and relevant to your consumers and your audiences and what’s valuable to them, but then you’ve got to back it up with something that’s credible and relevant to you and your brand and your brand values.”

Authenticity and foundation work

“If you’re a brand or organization that uses these purpose-led campaigns and if there are things that aren’t quite right, if you haven’t done that foundational work, then you are going to stoke that annoyance and backlash among certain groups of people,” says Michelle.

She cites paying taxes, treatment of staff, and gender parity as examples of the foundations a company ought to work on before opting to take a strong stance on moral and ethical issues. It’s important for them to lay the groundwork and to ‘walk the talk’.

When it came to Dove’s campaign, the team were very keen to bring in the voices of those who could be most affected by the campaign. They put a huge amount of effort and time into the research ahead of the launch to get all angles covered.

“With Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, we recognized at a very early stage that we’d have to involve people who were influential around self-esteem and build a long term community and approach. Charities, experts, academia, and those teaching girls in primary and secondary education were involved. We would need to get their thoughts, research and build upon the campaign. It was complex, nuanced and inclusive at a point where maybe it would have been easier for Dove to just launch it with an ad strapline.”

Whether Gillette’s laid the groundwork properly is up for debate, and Michelle suggests much more could have been done around toxic masculinity before the company launched the ad to create a recognizable and valid connection with the issue. That said, it doesn’t mean it can’t be a hit – and many signs show that’s just what it’s become.

Big thanks to Michelle for speaking with us. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

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