Before you begin any marketing project, whether it’s an entire rebrand, a website launch, social campaign, or just a one-off email, there’s a critical step you need to take that doesn’t involve clever copy or brand colors. 

It’s defining your audience.

You’ve probably heard this saying before, “If you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one.” Sounds like it came from a marketer, right? That’s because, as marketers, we know that vague generalizations and campaigns built on shots in the dark don’t land with customers. 

Marketing doesn’t convert by looking nice. It converts on connection. A potential customer wants to feel like you get them. And, to do that, you need a specific, nuanced view of your audience so you can speak to them directly, understand their needs and challenges, and make every interaction feel one-to-one.

Here’s how one organization did it (with our help!), defining and reaching three target audiences across different channels and in a way that resonated effectively, following just two simple steps.

Meet McGruff

You probably already know him. He’s the crime-fighting canine that has been the face of the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) since 1979. Throughout the generations, he’s taught children and adults about the importance of everything from locking doors to looking out for cyber-bullying. And, in 2021, he — and NCPC — teamed up with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to raise awareness about the importance of intellectual property and the negative impact of counterfeit items with the Go For Real™ campaign. 

NCPC and USPTO are on a mission to shift teen’s buying habits away from the temptation of counterfeit designer dupes and towards responsible consumption. This ultimately means reaching and resonating with teens, as well as their teachers and parents. 

Step One: Define the Audience

From designing a logo to crafting a caption on an Instagram post, every element of your brand should be built based on a clear understanding of your target audience. To define the audience, you need look at: 

  • Demographics
  • Values
  • Behaviors and media habits
  • Motivations

This means exploring both your current audience as well as any groups you’re looking to target.  Once you’ve completed the research, it’s important to learn what they’re looking to accomplish both in their everyday lives and when they open up their computer or pick up their phone. 

With NCPC, they were targeting three primary audiences. 

Audience One: Mobile-first Teens

  • Gen Z audience who only knows life with a smart phone in hand  
  • 97% of them use the internet daily
  • Have always consumed content in a continuously scrolling feed 
  • Brands and organizations only have a few seconds to grab their attention
  • Known for their ability to multi-task across screens, often messaging friends while watching TV, listening to music, and playing an online game all at once

Audience Two: Nostalgic Parents

  • Grew up with McGruff and already had a sense of nostalgia for the anti-crime messaging
  • Likely to use social media to share updates and stay in touch with family and friends
  • Primarily on Facebook, particularly for the parent groups in their area
  • Also on Instagram and possibly TikTok, but primarily to monitor children’s behavior

Audience Three: Tapped-In Teachers

  • Spends dozens of hours with tweens and teens each week
  • Less about comprehensive demographics than access to the teens
  • Average age of a teacher is 42, but they span a wide range that corresponds to a wide range of social media usage and consumption
  • Have the power of overhearing the teens’ conversations and intimately understanding where additional education is needed
  • Likely on the lookout for free content to utilize in their classrooms

Step Two: Meet Your Audience Where They Are

With the audiences clearly defined, you can meet them where they are, both in terms of what will connect with them and the channel where you’ll actually reach them. 

Right Messaging

To build connection and engagement with your audience, speak to them in their own language. If they have a soft spot for nostalgia, leverage that. If they’re passionate about political advocacy, work that into your messaging. If their number one priority is family, lean into family-friendly scenes. Make it feel like you’re speaking directly to them and where they are right now.

Right Media

Your messaging could be airtight, but if you’re not on the right platform, you might as well be shouting it into a black hole. Knowing where your audience is consuming media is critical, especially when you’re putting ad dollars behind your marketing campaigns. You want to spend where you’ll have the most impact, the best chance of achieving your objectives, and reach the highest proportion of your audience.

Putting into place the defined audiences, NCPC’s campaign targets Nostalgic Parents and Tapped-In Teachers on Facebook and Twitter and reaches Gen Z on Instagram. 

McGruff’s Results: What It Looks Like When You Know Your Audience

By defining their audience and targeting strategically,  Red Thinking and NCPC saw the McGruff fan base picked up 2.5K followers across platforms in the first three months after launch. And the new, targeted content is resonating. Engagement rates now exceed industry and platform-specific averages.

On Instagram, posts regularly see engagement rates over 10%. On Facebook, we’ve exceeded the industry average for engagement and continue to see month-over-month increases. We’ve seen huge month-over-month increases in content shares (+67% last month!) on Facebook, and that means we’ve successfully spoken to our target audience and they’re even helping to execute steps one and two of defining and reaching our target audiences by spreading the message on our behalf.

But these incredible results aren’t a surprise! This is what happens when you clearly identify and define your audience to know exactly how to tailor your message and how to meet that audience where they are and target them accurately. Putting the work in on the front end leads to better engagement, higher conversion, stronger reach, and an ROI that delights clients and marketers alike.