The Multiple Audience Challenge

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Brand positioning can be tricky to get just right. And it can get even more complicated if you have multiple audiences you may want to target.

This exact question came up during a recent positioning lesson in my brand management essentials course. A few students asked about the possibility of positioning to multiple audiences, and were wondering if it might be appropriate to write up multiple positioning statements for their brand.

Some of the scenarios that students inquired about were:

  • Educational institutions targeting both prospective students as well as alumni (for fundraising purposes)
  • Businesses with both B2C and B2B audiences or buyers
  • Complex consumer brands with multiple audience segments within a broader brand target

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, I do think there are a few questions you can answer to help think through this challenge and determine the best way forward.

Do You Need Multiple Positionings?

Here’s the most succinct way I can put it:

If you market to/communicate with multiple audiences (presumably with different needs/tailored communications) then, yes, you should probably have multiple positioning strategies.

Multiple positioning strategies then set you up to properly tailor messaging and offerings to best meet the needs of each audience.

But there’s another question, I would also ask here…

Should You Target Multiple Audiences?

Many brands stumble into chasing multiple target audiences. It’s usually well-intended as brands often become opportunistic in an effort to grow.

But it’s not always the best choice.

I would want to have a “yes” to three questions in order to commit my brand to pursuing an incremental audience:

  • Are you truly relevant to the new audience?
  • Can you win given the competitors that are already pursuing the audience?
  • Are you committed to adequately resourcing the marketing required to capture the audience?

Without a “yes” to all three of those questions, I would keep it simple and focus on a single/current audience.

What Do You Need to Operate?

I’m a huge advocate for keeping things as simple as possible. I think over-complicated strategic frameworks do more harm than good.

Let’s say you decide you should pursue multiple target audiences and you want to capture the strategy in a framework. What’s the simplest way to set direction?

Generally one of two approaches provides a good starting point:

  • Capture two distinct brand positioning statements—a good approach when the audiences are virtually completely separate from each other. I would apply this to the B2B vs. B2C and the students vs. alumni examples.
  • Use one master brand positioning, but build out sub-positionings/messaging inside of a portfolio architecture framework (a.k.a. brand architecture). This is common for consumer brands with complex portfolios that want to communicate different messages across a portfolio.

Get Started Capturing Your Strategy

If you want a good starting point for sharpening your brand positioning, you can check out the courses inside of our Brand Management Accelerator membership program. Alternatively you can check out our articles on brand positioning and brand architecture.

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