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That’s not My Customer!
Kirby Gordon, VP of Sales and Distribution at FlySafair, gives us some insight into the world of customer targeting. Stereotyping your audience and assuming you will know what they like does not always yield the best results. Read more about how the right data can help you target your audience better.
I was recently reading a book about some of the best airline brands around the world. There was a section that covered Air New Zealand and the narrative was around their use of a little puppet character called Rico. Rico was a bit of a reprobate, he spoke with a funny kiwi accent and got pretty good at saying rude things to celebrities. There’s no doubt that it was an effective campaign, but there was a comment from the CEO that got me to thinking.
He was quoted as saying that the adoption of Rico as a mascot for the brand was so useful to them because the audience that they serve is so diverse, and using this puppet character meant that they side-stepped the challenge of having to put an individual into their ads that represented their diverse customer base. It’s such an interesting topic that comes up quite often in South African advertising.
I’ve been party to plenty of castings where we look for that
Data versus instincts
What I wonder though is whether we are fundamentally missing the point here altogether? Who laid down this golden doctrine that says, “thou shalt put thou customer into an ad so that thou customer will best relate to the commercial”? I work in the marketing department of an airline - which is probably why I was reading a book about airline brands. We’ve decided that we want to use data to guide our messaging and, instead of making assumptions, let results guide us in the directions of what kinds of messages we should use. So we took it upon ourselves to run a little experiment.
Putting the theory to the test
We know that the majority of our customer base is women of a certain age, and we were looking to develop some creative for a set of billboards that were due to go up. We decided to run a Display campaign where we tested different creative executions to see what got the best response. We developed an ad template and a very generic line of copy. It was pretty much just a line that said something along the lines of “Fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town from R599”.
In one set of creatives, we used the copy with generic images of our aircraft against a blue sky. In another, we used the same copy with appealing images of our destinations. In a third, we tried to find images that we felt best represented our customers – happy smiling women on holiday, and in the final set of creative, we found an image of a really hot guy drinking a glass of wine.
So we ran the campaigns concurrently for a period of two months and used the results to direct our above-the-line messaging. The interesting thing is that the ads where we tried to portray our target customer were the worst performing ads
Don’t assume you know your audience
The takeaway here is interesting. Sure, some ads require a character of some sort who is representative of the ultimate customer, and perhaps the CEO of Air New Zealand was onto something with his idea about side-stepping this debate using a puppet to replace the customer, but maybe, just maybe, we should be cautious about the approach of putting our customers into our ads at all. Perhaps we should rather focus on representing things that are likely to appeal to them. So our next step is to figure out whether our audience liked the hot guy, the wine, or the combo of the two…
Kirby Gordon VP: Sales and Distribution of FlySafair
About the Author
Kirby Gordon is a marketing know-it-all based in Johannesburg. He heads up marketing for FlySafair, a new low-cost airline that’s kicking ass and taking names in the South African domestic market. Previous experience includes marketing for Kalahari.com, an online general retailer, and Sanlam, a massive a financial services company.