Psychology-Driven Brand Design. Creating and Refining Remarkable Brand Identities.

Branding Mistakes: Targeting Everyone, Reaching No One

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In previous blog posts, we’ve looked at common mistakes that businesses make, based on a Google+ Hangout hosted by iStock: Top 5 Small Business Branding Mistakes. We’ve talked about blending in with the crowd and forgetting that small can be big. What is #2 on their list? Targeting everyone, reaching no one.

Everybody needs what I offer … or do they?

While in some cases this may be somewhat true, it would still behoove you to position yourself differently. People gravitate towards things that “speak” to them. It’s difficult to do that when you’re trying to appeal to everybody. You end up with a very weak message that no one person can actually identify with.

In most cases, it is simply not true that everybody needs or wants what you’re selling, and you may just think that is the case. Look at who your current customers are and see if there are any common factors that connect them as a whole. It may be a certain type of lifestyle, certain values, etc. Those are the ones to focus your energy on. Just because you want every person within a 30-mile radius (or every woman over the age of 50, or every teenager from here to Mexico, or everybody who owns a car…) to be your customer doesn’t mean it’s a realistic goal.

Advice from the video?

Create loyal brand ambassadors. Even if it’s a small group initially, creating loyalty will pay off in the long run as those people who are super excited about you and your business will become extremely dedicated and spread your message for you.

But I don’t want to exclude anybody. Won’t I lose business?

If you do lose business by narrowing your target audience, then it’s business that isn’t worth it to you in the long run. If a customer is not in your “sweet spot” you’ll quickly learn that they’re more trouble than they’re worth. The goal is to stop wasting time, energy, and dollars trying to attract everybody and instead focus on the ones that fit ideally within your sphere. However, even after saying that, it’s unlikely that you will lose business, at least not enough to make a difference.

Two things that happen when you hone in on a specific target audience are:

  1. You become more memorable.
  2. You’re often seen as more of an expert than the one that tries to appeal to everyone.

When this happens, you’ll end up attracting more business. Case in point, I just met a fitness instructor at a networking event. Out of all the fitness instructors I’ve ever met, this one stood out because she catered to older women and their health needs. She showcased this through her branding using a clever tagline and presentation.  As a result, she stood out in my mind from all the other fitness gurus I have ever met. Even though I’m not currently in her target audience, I feel very comfortable in her abilities. And, because her brand positioning has set her apart, she’d be the first to pop up in my mental Rolodex. I would certainly call her if I needed fitness services.

How to determine a target audience: Marketing Personas

What is a marketing persona? It is a fictional (but data-derived) character that represents your target audience. A persona should be well-developed. It should have a name, job position, specific demographics (age, gender, family, location, income, etc), goals, values, challenges, and fears. Your persona may include hobbies, reading trends, favorite stores for shopping, etc. The purpose of developing personas is to hone in on the qualities that dictate your market so that you can more effectively communicate with and serve those people.

How do I create personas?

Creating personas should not be an exercise in creative writing. It should be based on cold hard data. So, the first step is research. Look at your site analytics, take surveys, conduct interviews with existing customers, constantly be capturing feedback in whatever form you can. Next, you will want to put together the information mentioned above. In essence, what are the demographics and pyschographics? Lifestyle, likes, dislikes, values, opinions? What are their pain points? Do they spend more time on Twitter or Pinterest or offline? Do they shop at Whole Foods or Food Lion? Do they value family time over material possessions? Would they camp out in line for the latest iWantit from Apple? What blogs/newspapers do they read? Why would they need your service/product? What would cause them to hesitate in trying your product/service … and what would convince them to use it?

You will need more than one persona. It is unlikely that a single character can describe all of your main customers. You may need 3-5, depending on how varied your services are. Name them, even give them a face. Then, run every decision against your persona(s). “Ask” them before making business decisions, marketing decisions, customer service decisions — how would this affect Jane/Bob/Susie? Would Bob have a difficult time navigating our website if we change the format? Etc. The purpose of creating these personas is to use it as a tool to step back and try to see things from your customer’s point of view — which is the only one that really matters.


Do not try to market to the masses. Instead develop specific personas and focus on them instead. You will go through periods of trial and error to find what messages will speak to your audience the best — but it will be a much easier (and more enjoyable!) process if you define who you need to be talking to first.

Read more » Mistake #3: Blending in with the crowd

Read more » Mistake #4: Forgetting that small can be big

Read more » Mistake #5: Overlooking the little moments

Nyla Smith

Nyla Smith

Nyla is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 15 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton Roads, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.

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