Jackie Huba

Marketing to enthusiasts

Which framework do you use to outline your target customers?

A) Men, 24-44, married, 2 children, income of $75,000+
B) People with an undying love and passion for high-performance cars

Old-school marketers typically select category A. They see customers as a spreadsheet-driven data profile devoid of emotion or passion.

Customer evangelism marketers typically select category B. They see customers as anyone who has a passion for your type of product or service.

The world is filled with marketers who wrongly predicted their target customers. When it released the Honda Element SUV, Honda said the car’s target customers was a young surfer dude. Wrong. In reality, the average age of the Element owner is a 38-year-old city dweller who loves the car’s retro-funky style.

Speaking of motor-based products, many marketers probably still believe that Harley-Davidson’s primary customers are burly blue-collar types who love the roar of the engine and the smell of of the oil pan. Wrong. Demographically, Harley owners are all over the map: men, women, tattooed bikers, senior business professionals, politicians, etc. who connect with Harley’s emotional connection to freedom and the open road.

If you only target a demographic, you’ll probably miss it. In our world of media ubiquity and fast-moving word-of-mouth, your target should be people with a passion for your product type or its value. If your mission is to attract enthusiasts, they’ll spread the word to their enthusiast friends.

A few of the big-ticket companies understand this; in the hot, factory-tuned performance segment in which BMW’s Mini Cooper S and Ford’s 170-hp SVT Focus compete, marketing requires a non-traditional approach, says Tom Scarpello, marketing and sales manager at Ford Motor Co.

“We never set out to hit a demographic,” he says. “It’s really about appealing to enthusiast customers. If they love high-performance vehicles, they’re in our target.”

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