Why marketing riches are in the niches

Why marketing riches are in the niches
tom fishburne marketoonist

In marketing, one size does not fit all. One size fits none. Many brands try to be all things to all people. General Mills CMO Mark Addicks once commented that too many brands were targeted to “women, ages 18-49, with a pulse”.

It can be tempting to aim for everyone, particularly for mass-market brands. I’ve been in brand discussions where the target market was identified by writing all possible prospects on a whiteboard, as if we were cold-calling customers rather than trying to connect with them. Yet that broad targeting approach can lead to a split personality that appeals to no one.

Your target market is not the same as anyone who could conceivably buy your product. A target market is deliberately exclusive. That niche focus is what gives it teeth. It is what compels consumers to identify with your brand. It is what gives you insight to speak to them so clearly.

At Marketoon Studios, we develop cartoon series for brands with hyper-targeted audiences. For Guidance Software, we create a weekly series for a target market most people have never even heard of, e-discovery professionals. The e-discovery industry is an emerging field within Legal IT services where lawyers exchange electronic files in litigation. If you're not part of the e-discovery community, you probably won't understand most of the cartoons. But if you work in that industry, the cartoons are prized and highly shared. Last year, I traveled to the LegalTech e-discovery trade show. The Guidance Software booth was mobbed by fans that wanted cartoon prints to take to their offices and hang on their walls. That level of content engagement comes from the power of speaking to a niche audience.

We've created cartoon campaigns for audiences as niche and varied as database administrators, certified public accountants, HR professionals, in-app media buyers, and British secondary school teachers. Each campaign was deliberately exclusive. That’s what made them resonate.

The same holds true for any form of content marketing. The more focused the content, the better the content will stick.  

Sailor Jerry gets this. The rum brand recently held a marketing event in Brooklyn that was deliberately exclusive. If you were willing to get a Sailor Jerry tattoo permanently tattooed on your skin, they would reward you with … a shot of Sailor Jerry. While this campaign was clearly not for everyone, two hundred people lined up at a tattoo parlor in the rain to take advantage of this offer.

One Sailor Jerry fan named Sebastian said, “I’m in love with Sailor Jerry. All I drink is Sailor Jerry. You know what, a lot of people don’t really understand, and I don’t expect them to because Sailor Jerry is mine.”

Sebastian’s comment is a wonderful articulation of what a brand can mean to a true fan. These are the types of advocates that we need to inspire in marketing. It is better to be deeply meaningful to a few than to aim for the majority and get lost in the clutter. 

In content marketing, preach to the choir. The choir will show up every Sunday, and they will evangelize your sermon to others.

Tom Fishburne is Marketoonist and Founder of Marketoon Studios, a cartoon studio that helps businesses like GE, Vodafone, Microsoft, Kronos, Baynote, and Guidance Software reach their audiences with cartoons. Follow his cartoons at his Marketoonist blog or on Twitter @tomfishburne.