How to Properly Manage Expectations – Part Two

A couple weeks ago I wrote about ad strategy. Specifically, what are you asking of your audience? And when I say specifically, I mean specifically. Do you want them to THINK something, FEEL something or DO something? It’s actually a very difficult question to answer. The other side of that coin, of course, is whom are you speaking to?

And when I say “whom,” I mean what ONE person exemplifies the spirit of your brand? A good answer doesn’t contain averages, age ranges or words like “kinda.” Remember: SPECIFIC.

It means drilling down to the minutia of fractional idiosyncrasies that drives this one person to get up on a 9-degree Saturday morning in February to go outside and purchase a vanilla latte before dropping her daughter off at play practice before heading to Bikram Yoga with her college girlfriends before picking her son up from an overnight at a friend’s house.

Knowing your audience means knowing the elements of your audience. Yes, you manage an “Audience Structure.” This structure varies between business to business, but all structures are made up of two basic parts: core user and target audience.

We all know what a target audience is. Any media director worth his or her salt can deliver your message to the appropriate audience at the appropriate time. Our own media director, Lisa Huebner, is an expert at placing client messages in front of specific audiences with eloquence, charm and pragmatic determination. (This message approved by Lisa Huebner.)

But what the hell is a core user?

It’s that one person that embodies the spirit of your brand. Great brands know this person. Great brands name this person. Great brands have a photo of this person. From Harley-Davidson to Aveda to Wisconsin Dells, successful brands write, design and create for this one person – although the message reaches, and appeals to, a larger target audience via the spectacular work of a media director (cough). But is created for just one.

That’s because, depending on the product or service, your own persona changes to fit the persona of that product or service. When you’re on a Harley, you’re a bad-ass biker. When you’re drinking Kool-Aid, you’re a 6-year old. When you’re on the deck of a cruise ship, you’re a retired banker from Rockford.

Okay, okay, here’s an example:

My 8-year old son is not feeling well. His temperature has spiked to 103, he’s complaining about his stomach, his head and he just threw up. I am suddenly no longer a 48-year old, male creative director into his Road King. I’m a 38-year old female, stay-at-home mom who loves baking cake pops. Why did I change? Because my child is sick and this is the “hat” I wear when I become a caregiver. This is my ideal as a caregiver. And if this is the core user for Children’s Tylenol, then their message will suddenly appeal to me and I will purchase.

So, how do you boil down your brand to speak to just one? Ask yourself some questions. Think about the spirit of your brand. Think about your base consumer. And answer these:

Is your core audience male or female?

What age? (I repeat, NOT A RANGE, just a number.)


Kids? How many?

Salary? HH income? (One number for each.)

What does this person drive? (Specific brand, model and year.)

What are their favorite three websites?

Their two favorite TV shows?


Foods? Restaurants?

From school completion level to type of chocolate treat they enjoy most, the picture you paint of this person should be as real as your own. Because that’s who you’re creating for, and that’s the spirit of the person who will be viewing this half-page ad in five months as they ride the Hiawatha to Chicago while thinking about how they could best invest their recent, $45,000 inheritance from their Aunt Silvia.

A deep level of detail. Get it?

Answer these questions and your expectations will take care of themselves. It’s strategy and it’s specific. And if well-employed, what you can expect is success.