The idea of demographics plays a large role in many marketing campaigns and can be helpful, to a certain degree, but most people don’t fit neatly into the ideas marketers and others have of different demographics. For example, as a woman in my 20’s who has no interest in jewelry, no plans to reproduce in the near future and who is neither currently on or looking for a diet to try, many of the advertisements that are designed to target someone of my age and gender have scant influence on me. Consumers can tell when an ad is targeting a generic demographic and while there’s a value to appealing to a larger audience, efforts that feel more like personal marketing have a stronger effect.
That being said, there have been occasions where I’ve encountered marketing for which I absolutely was the target audience. I enjoy experiencing the kinds of advertising that work on me as a consumer, both because it reveals something about myself and helps me grasp what others are likely to respond to as well.
One of the best examples I’ve encountered comes from a box of tea from the company Inti Zen. The boxes for each type of tea they sell include a quote on the inside, in Spanish (with an English translation), each having some kind of general relationship to tea or to the particular type of tea included. Their quote for the jasmine flavored mate tea is from none other than my favorite writer, Jorge Luis Borges:
In case it’s too small to read, it says:
“A mi se me hace cuento que empezo Buenos Aires:
La juzgo tan eterna como el agua y el aire”
or, in English:
“I think the founding of Buenos Aires was a mere fairytale:
I believe it eternal, like the water and the air.”
The image pictured above the quote is a traditional mate gourd, use of which is common in Argentina and some other South American countries. The image and quote manage to tie the experience of this product to a larger cultural meaning: it makes me think of poetry, my favorite writer, Argentina and the cultural role that yerba mate plays in South American society (drinking yerba mate from a gourd is often a communal experience, it gets passed around from person to person, and mate is known for providing a level of energy similar to coffee, but healthier).
Probably most consumers who buy Inti Zen tea don’t get as much out of this reference, but for me it’s a profound personal marketing success. A simple cup of tea comes to represent more than it is in and of itself and due to this (and because the quality of the product merits it), I’ve been a loyal customer of this brand ever since I first tried it.
The second example is a television advertisement I saw several years ago. Sadly, my attempts to find a clip of the commercial online was unsuccessful, so I’ll have to do my best to recount it from memory, forgive any inaccuracies this may produce. The commercial showed a man driving from bookstore to bookstore, not Borders or Barnes and Nobles, mind you, but smaller, more independent looking bookshops. Eventually he makes it to one where he finds what he’s been looking for: a first edition copy of a Kurt Vonnegut novel. When he goes to check out, he just happens upon…Kurt Vonnegut, himself, who signs the book for him. It was one of those Mastercard “priceless” spots, that manages to do an especially good job of figuring out an experience and item that a book lover would deem priceless.
My third example, pictured at the top of this post and related to my first example, is today’s Google doodle, an image designed to commemorate the 112th birthday of Jorge Luis Borges. Not that Google really needs marketing–when the name of your product becomes a verb commonly used in every day conversation, the marketers job is pretty much done–but, the team that creates the Google doodles do a great job of endearing users to Google even more. Other great recent examples include the recent Charlie Chaplin and PacMan doodles.
Marketing that hits so personally is relatively rare because it means a necessarily small audience. Most tea drinkers don’t have the interest in Borges and Argentine culture that I do, so it’s not the most wide reaching strategy to try to appeal to an interest in something so relatively obscure. The upside is it provokes feelings that are deeper and will stick around for longer than an ad with wider appeal that feels less personal would.