Mel Sokotch

4. Creative Strategy-The longest chapter, and the most important

...But what's essential to understand is this: when the assignment is handed over to the creative team, they go back to their workspaces, by themselves, with nothing more than the creative strategy to guide them. Over the next several weeks, they'll refer back to it time and again. If the strategy is a good one, and the team talented, they'll return with ideas that stand a good chance of leading to effective advertising. But if the strategy is ill-conceived or poorly written, the journey will be long, hard and expensive. When a marketing director reviews a campaign exploratory and says, "I didn't realize this is where the strategy would take us," it hurts and it costs, in dollars and enthusiasm.

2. Who is the core target customer? Assume the obvious: that the creative team will want to feature the target customer in the campaign. What then are the most discriminating facts of his or her life? What are they thinking or feeling that's most relevant to the product category? (Some agencies separate these two issues into "demographics" and "insight" sections, but since they're so closely related, keeping them together paints a better picture of the target customer.) The description can be written in just a couple of sentences. Here are three are three deconstructed from actual campaigns:

-Mac Young people in their teens, 20s, and 30s. They might be students, teachers, entrepreneurs or artists. They have style; they're individualistic; and they value simplicity. Some are serious techies; many are not sophisticated at all. For the most part, they're PC users. Their PC experience has been less than perfect--if anything too complicated. Importantly, they switch or upgrade every couple of years.

-Cheer Gatekeepers who care about the way they and their families present themselves. These could be families with one or two kids, or career couples with none. When they head off to work, when their kids head off to school, they look good. They care about color. Color is an important consideration when they buy new clothes. The fact that color tends to fade with multiple washings is especially frustrating.

-Viagra Men in their 50s, 60s, 70s. They're married. They've enjoyed good sex lives. But in recent years they've had difficulty getting or keeping an erection. The reason might be a health condition like a prostate operation. Or it might have happened gradually. Regardless, it's affecting their lives and their relationships. And it's especially frustrating because it's a subject they're reluctant to talk about.

Hazards to Avoid Abe Lincoln's advice about the impossibility of "satisfying all of the people, all of the time" is worth remembering here. Successful targeting means making choices, sometimes difficult choices, and that means limiting your audience. But if you do a good job with a discrete group, if you turn them into true believers, the rest will often take care of itself.
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