Cup of Tea: How Vague Target Audiences Can Ruin Your Brand Strategy
To many in our office, coffee is the great nectar of the gods–a blessing that provides a much-needed jolt of energy to kickstart creativity and productivity at the start of the day. For those diehard coffee drinkers, it may be hard to believe that some people don’t even like coffee, let alone drink the stuff. That’s right. Some people prefer tea. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that Folgers executes a brand strategy that focuses on those who consider their first cup of coffee “the best part of waking up,” instead of wasting their time, energy and budget talking to the uninterested, committed tea drinkers.
Understanding that concept, why do so many companies still insist on being everything for everyone? There is a very natural desire to sell to as wide an audience as possible and cast as wide a net as you can. It makes sense–a larger audience equals greater success, right? Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. When writing my book, Formulaic: How Thriving Companies Market From the Core, I found one example of the opposite being true: an example that proves products and brands can flourish if their brand strategy is laser focused instead of vaguely aimed at mass appeal.
A Story of Putters and Passion
For those who enjoy the sport of golf, Scotty Cameron is a name that resonates with respect. Maturing his childhood love of golf into an obsession of the game and the gear used to play it, Cameron focused on a singular goal: to build the best putter in golf. And he did just that, developing putters used to win 15 championships and tournaments that include the US Open and the Masters. What started as a childhood obsession is now a business that rakes in over $100 million in revenue annually and serves the likes of Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth. But it’s not just the pros who flock to Cameron’s clubs. ZZ Top drummer and amateur golfer Frank Beard has a fully customized collection valued at $1.5 million.
While Cameron’s clubs are obviously a big hit with his target audience, his putters are expressly not for everyone. Priced at nearly $400 (double the price of many others on the market), the potential audience for these clubs is instantly thinned out by the sticker shock alone. Yet Cameron continues to be successful. Why?
More than just an inspiring story of dream fulfillment, Scotty Cameron is a case study on why doing one thing exceptionally well for a highly specific audience can be far more lucrative than a scattershot approach with no clear direction. Cameron’s putters aren’t made for the casual fan. They are crafted with passion and quality for people who share his love for the sport. “Naysayers said that we (don’t) need another putter maker, so I tried to be the best putter maker,” commented Cameron.
Hunting the YETI
Many outdoorsy activities require their enthusiasts to brave everything from extreme heat to frigid cold, downpouring rain to bone-dry conditions. There was a need for equipment that could weather the same conditions its users could and keep ice frozen or coffee hot. For YETI, this need translated into an opportunity.
Now known at the name in coolers, tumblers and similar gear, YETI first began when brothers Ryan and Roy Seiders discovered this need for quality coolers firsthand while hunting and fishing. Assuming that other lovers of the great outdoors experience similar issues, the two ventured to solve this highly specific problem for a highly specific audience–people like themselves. Though priced at a premium, YETI products targeted the people who care about quality when it comes to a cooler. Through a product that lived up to its promises, word-of-mouth spread in the serious fishing, hunting and camping communities. This reputation, paired with engagement with outdoors enthusiast influencers, turned YETI into a genuine phenomenon in this highly specific target market. Eventually, word spread of the nearly magical qualities of YETI products to keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot (while taking a licking), opening it up to an even wider audience. Though now a mainstream brand, YETI’s wide success is largely due to the Seiders brothers’ laser-like focus and commitment to a singular market.
The Right Product to the Right People
Like Scotty Cameron’s premium putters or the Seiders brothers’ top-tier YETI products, your brand strategy can carve out a niche by tightly focusing efforts on a specific audience. It is OK to be ignored by a large swath of people as long as you are beloved by a designated few: your target audience. Brands die in the middle. Pick a side and serve it better than anyone else. That’s what Scotty Cameron and the Seiders did and what may work for your company as well. It’s OK to not be everyone’s cup of tea.