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Advertising Report

Re-think your consumer and their needs
Re-think your consumer and their needs

Advertising isn't the problem - marketing is

Before blaming poor advertising for a lack of sales, retailers should scrutinise the category and the consumer of their products, then adjust their strategy and creative brief accordingly, BARRY URQUHART advises.

A prospective client once told me, “Advertising is more than half my problem.” In fact, that itself is a half-truth.

In this particular instance, like so many others, the advertising was a problem; however, poor reaction to an ad is often symptomatic of other factors, like a misaligned creative brief, inaccurate product positioning or poor demographic profiling.

Achieving ‘cut-through’ with consumers is becoming progressively more challenging. Communication channels are rapidly evolving. As a result, they are more complex, fragmented and disjointed.

The concept of synergy seems lost on some retailers and all too often, one plus one is regularly coming up short of two.

Consumers today tend to have shorter attention spans, plus they more-readily exercise selective perception, filtering out large blocks of communication from brands they either deem irrelevant or outright dislike.

Typically, the blame for under-performance in advertising gets attributed to choosing the wrong communication channels or employing the wrong advertising agencies.

Both are wrong.

You can target the right audience and still achieve no real impact if the context is not right.

Proper horses for courses

The term ‘fit’ in marketing can relate to a company, brand name, product, service and, yes, category. A lack of fit has implications for defining target audiences, product/service configurations and timing.

Outdoor furniture is a fine example of these factors in play, as it is a category that has some unique characteristics: demand is typically short-term with high peaks and low troughs, and price is a key determinant in product and outlet selection.

"Typically, the blame for underperformance in advertising gets attributed to choosing the wrong communication channels or employing the wrong advertising agencies – both are wrong"

Why? Simply put, the term ‘outdoor furniture’ equates to ‘summer’ for many consumers. In Australia, this means people generally aren’t thinking about the category in winter and possibly aren’t even purchasing unless in the window of November to March.

Accordingly, advertising will not readily resonate with target audiences during autumn and winter – regardless of how creative or price-oriented it is.

Therefore, effective repositioning of the outdoor furniture category is needed to promote scope and opportunities for increasing sales throughout all four seasons.

Understanding the consumer

All businesses will struggle at different times to communicate with select demographic and psychographic segments unless, and until, all factors and variables are aligned.

Individual consumers fulfil multiple roles in contemporary society. For example, a female, aged 35, might awaken next to her spouse or partner as a ‘wife’ then prepare breakfast for the family as a ‘mother’.

While driving, she becomes a ‘commuter’ before arriving at work as an ‘employee’ or ‘boss’. On the way home, she might call into the supermarket and completes her tasks as a ‘home maker’ or stop off at a local sporting club as a ‘team member’ or ‘coach’.

Thus, the self-image and role-specifics of a prospective buyer will most certainly differ depending upon the time of day.

Stimulating interest

Certain key aspects of the communication and marketing disciplines enhance impact, resonance, effectiveness and sales when developed in sequential order.

These include:

Refine target audience profiles – extend consideration beyond demographic and psychographic profiles. Identify, isolate, analyse and focus on relevant lifestyle roleplays. This will personalise your messages.

Reposition the brand, service or company categories – broad-brush generalisations typically lead to commoditisation. As an example, department stores are passé, outdated and hold little interest for many. Discount department stores suffer from an image and positioning problem, which is reflected in poor and falling sales and profits. Therefore, repositioning is necessary.

Consider complementary purchase opportunities – Not all products, services and brands are, in isolation, a primary purchase item. Their value is enhanced when clustered with other more-dominant merchandise. There’s a reason “Would you like... with that?” is a well-established proposition.

Recalibrate the advertising – Finally, from a clean slate, decisions need to be made about the content, the headline, context, channels, and scheduling of the advertising/ communication mix.

As demonstrated, advertising can prove to be the footnote rather than the centre of communicating with your customers.

Barry Urquhart

Contributor • Marketing Focus

Barry Urquhart is managing director of Marketing Focus. He has been a consultant to the retail industry around the world since 1980. Visit: or email

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