Long ago, advertising students were taught to imagine a single member of the target audience, and talk to that person when creating communication.
This is a rather nifty technique, but something that takes a bit of skill and practice to perfect.
But once students figure it out, it can be used to crack almost any product.
Let’s look at an example.
A few years back, the Government of India and a private sector NGO, launched a no-name contraceptive pill. Not just any contraceptive pill, mind you, but a pill that had retroactive effect. That too, up to 72 hours, after coitus. And it was to be distributed free, through the NGO centers and District Health Centers, in mofussil Moradabad.
Obviously there was a need for communication.
First, the name. Emergency Contraceptive Pill was the formal name of the product. Prior experience said that the contraceptive pill was called ‘Goli” by the target audience women. Research also showed that the women understood and used the word ‘Emergency’. So it was a simple jump to Emergency Goli for the name.
Now, the thinking behind the communication.
Who is the actual user of this product? Women obviously. But there are groups of women who needed the product. 1. Rape victims. 2. In a community where men do not like using birth control, wives, and victims of marital rape. 3. Premarital intercourse. And 4, commercial sex workers, where again, the clients do not like using protection.
So we have a unifying thought for all these groups. Women who fear an unwanted pregnancy.
Research again showed that women in the target audience used euphemisms to talk to even another woman about intercourse. ‘Who mere paas aaya tha” was the phrase employed. The agency came up with the baseline which used the target audience’s own lingo to communicate.
Emergency Goli. Paas aane ke baad, pachthane se pehle.
Today, a professional communicator has far more options to target his audience.
Cell phones, email, social networks, all let the communication reach individual, identifiable potential customers.
Let’s see how all of these options can be used in campaigning for the president’s chair in a club election.
The candidate has a list of the club’s 5000 members. The data includes names, family member’s names, age details, occupations, favorite activities, sports, anniversaries, cell phone numbers, email ids and more.
Most of the members would be using a smart phone.
The communication channels are clear. Email. WhatsApp messaging. SMS. Voice Messages. Phone calls.
Each message is reaching an individual.
Which means that every message can be, in fact should be, tailored to the recipient.
The right amount, and the right kind of homework, throws up endless ways of personally influencing each voter.
With the name and number, it is easy to find each voter on social media. From their pages it is possible to find likes, dislikes, hobbies, favorites etc. Then it is a simple thing to generate subgroups and create messages. For example, if 50 of the 5000 members like travel to little known destinations, a pitch can be made based on the club’s travel activity plan, if the candidate is voted into the chair. If 500 of the 5000 members swoon over a particular film star, then the candidate can promise to try and get the star for a club event, with a Selfie With The Star opportunity.
Yes, it is painstaking, but it can be done. And it will work wonders.
Every one of these new media channels works on a number.
Which leads us to a rather reflective thought. Will all the new technology make mere numeric entities out of the target audience? Ayn Rand had addressed this issue in her book, ‘Anthem’. In the book, the hero and the heroine live in a society where there are no names. Individuals have numbers to identify them. Much like out mobile number is, in a way, our identity today. The couple breaks free of the confines of society, run away to the jungle, and gives each other names.
The professional communicator’s primary task today is this. Keep the human, personal touch alive and warm in every piece of communication. That is what will elicit an emotional response from the target audience, singly or enmasse. Cutting edge communication has to cut – through the technology shell that so many consumers are cocooned in.