Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I was in a client meeting in which they briefed us about a new project and a term came up which irked me to no end. It wasn’t the first time, and I think that’s why I cringed at its utterance. Client X described the project target by saying, “we’re going after a target of 18-54 year olds, with a bullseye target of 21-34”.

As you read that, are you noticing what I’m noticing, or have you become immune to the inanity of this definition? It would be understandable. I hadn’t heard this “bullseye” idea until a couple of years ago and now I’m hearing it more and more. My problems with the bullseye notion are plenty, but let’s use the above example as our case study.

Point 1: 18-54 year olds is not a target definition, it is a massive cross-section of the general population. I have railed against using demography to outline consumers previously (check that here), and aside from the arguments made there, which basically state how we are products of our thoughts, actions, interests, and geographies more than our birth certificates, what irks me here is the notion that with this broad age range, zero nuance is taken into consideration. Essentially, Client X is telling me, “we imagine our product will be relevant for every adult north of high school and south of early retirement.” No. Way. I think we can all agree that a) in an ideal world, we’d have products that appealed to that kind of an age range and b) it has to be understood that by pinpointing a target (based on whatever factors you choose, but hopefully choosing something more to do with their reaction to a receding hairline and less about the year they began losing it), you will undoubtedly reach people you weren’t expecting to reach.

When Axe shows the guy picking up the girl in the convenience store, it is clearly aimed at (in bland demographic terms) 18-24 year old men. BUT, I think we can assume that somewhere out there, a mid-30’s guy, or a woman, or even a spry septuagenarian, might see that same commercial and feel it captures something about them too. No communication ever only reaches the “target” it always stretches beyond, even to a remarkable few.

My point simply being that you don’t need the big fat range of every adult in the Western Hemisphere. We get it. You’re hoping to reach a lot of people. Which brings us to

Point 2: Please help us rid the world of jargon. The last thing advertisers and marketing departments need is another buzzword. Catchphrases sadly sell books and draw attention, but they also push consumers further away from products and corroborate the notion that this is an industry of snake oil salesmen and sinister doubletalkers. Skip the new parlance, trust that simple, specific language will communicate everything you hoped and more, and get to who you really want to focus on. Just tell us.

Bullseye targeting is a lazy way to seem like you’re thinking deeper than you really are. I think it’s a trick someone came up with to make it appear as though they were working much harder than they were. That there was great understanding of consumer truth, when really it’s just saying “we looked at everyone and now we want to focus on this smaller group”. Which is what you’re doing if you just skip the “bulls---“ and get to the point.
the thoughts and opinions expressed below are entirely my own, and are not necessarily shared by my friends, family, or employer. (though they very well might be...)