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Finding the right customer

“You can’t please all of the people all of the time”[1] so said John Lydgate, a Benedictine Monk back in the 14th century.

To which I would have replied “I hear you John, but why would you want to?”

Alarm bells always ring when I’m told by a client they want to sell to everybody, because, in the world of brand, everybody does not exist! It’s just not possible to have a brand that everybody wants, so why spend time and money trying to reach them when you only need to really engage with a much more modest number of people.

Every organisation will have an audience to engage with, regardless of type, location, or ambition, and defining that audience – often referred to as the target audience – is a critical part of developing and marketing a brand.

It stands to reason that the better you know the type and needs of individuals or organisations the brand needs to engage with, the greater the chance of creating a brand that will appeal to that audience. Just as importantly, by defining the target audience you also have a much greater chance of being able to find them!

Understanding who is going to want to buy your brand and then using that understanding to shape your sales and marketing is essential as it ensures you are using your resources as effectively and efficiently as possible. It will stop a brand trying to convince a middle-aged person that they really needs a pack of ultra absorbent nappies or that a keen classical music lover would like a pair of tickets for a heavy metal festival! There are a number of ways to understand an audience, and we’ll summarize three commonly used classifications, all of which are pretty accessible.


Taken from the Greek words demos meaning “the people” and grapho alluding to a description – it’s a way of categorizing an audience into various segments[2]. Age is a very useful way of defining your audience, and it can be done by life stages – adolescent, teenage, young adult, adult, middle age, and seniors – or by generations – baby boomers, generation X, millennials. This will give you an idea about what sort of things they will be interested in and whether your brand will be relevant to them.

Gender is useful too, as there are differences in some of our buying habits, from the obvious differences in, say, clothing preferences, to more nuanced differences like attitudes to charity giving, for example. Income and Occupation is another that looks at the buying power of customers, and as with all generalisations there will be exceptions, but you need to be sure that your target audience can afford to buy your brand! You can find demographic data in most countries by accessing census websites, which are usually free of charge.


Location can be a clear steer for a brand. Many businesses rely entirely on their location to be successful and build their businesses around serving a community – hairdressers, estate agents, accountants, restaurants, funeral directors, etc. all meet a local need. To find out if your brand will succeed in a specific geographical region, take some time to visit the area and count the number of businesses that already provide the sort of service your product or brand is offering.

You should also include the actual geographic features of a location – you won’t find many surf shops in London but there are plenty on the coast of Cornwall. Different regional cultural preferences also have a part to play. I remember a trip through Maine where we stopped for lobster at the roadside McDonald’s, and you can buy a beer with your Big Mac in France or have your burger served in a pitta bread in Greece, for example.[3]


The third type of segmentation tries to find out how an audience sees the world. These attitudes can be captured by doing market research to explore the motivations and opinions on a whole range of subjects and products. It’s actually relatively easy and inexpensive to submit questions to a weekly national survey that captures the views of an audience, very often segmented into different types – just google research omnibus.

This quantitative method (large numbers of people answering questions online or on the phone, often with a yes or a no) will give a broad understanding of an audience’s attitudes to things that could impact their willingness to buy a particular brand. For a more accurate idea you could commission qualitative research, where a researcher will often engage with a small number of precisely targeted customers to get a deeper sense of their views. This approach, whilst being more accurate, is significantly more expensive and time-consuming.

So, knowing your audience and their needs will ensure you can find them, and use your brand to meet their needs.

Bruce M McKinnon is a Brand Strategist and author of the award-winning bookWhat’s Your Point? which can be purchased from Amazon. The book explores how brand strategy can fuel business growth, referencing some of the world’s most successful brands as well as sharing case studies from his own global consulting practice.


[1] “Quote by John Lydgate: “You can please some of the people all of the time...”. goodreads. Available at: (Accessed: 16 July 2019)” [2] “Definition of “demography”. Online Etymology Dictionary. Available at: (Accessed: 16 July 2019)” [3] “Mancall-Bitel N. “Everywhere Around the World Where McDonald’s Serves Beer”. supercall. 2017. Available at: (Accessed: 16 July 2019)”

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