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Moving Targets: How to Engage a Shape-Shifting Consumer Audience


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One-size-fits-all communications planning and traditional consumer segmentation don’t always reflect the dynamism and real-timeshifts of consumer behavior today. When viable engagement opportunities …

One-size-fits-all communications planning and traditional consumer segmentation don’t always reflect the dynamism and real-timeshifts of consumer behavior today. When viable engagement opportunities arise as a result of emerging cultural trends or movements, PR can respond with speed and flexibility. This white paper explores how a “micro-targeted” communications approach can help brands engage with their audience in fresh ways, and spotlights women entre-preneurs as a consumer subset ripe for the (micro) picking.

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  • 1. Moving Targets:How to Engage a Shape-ShiftingConsumer AudienceA devries public relations whitepaper One-size-fits-all communications planning and traditional consumer segmentation don’t always reflect the dynamism and real-time shifts of consumer behavior today. When viable engagement opportunities arise as a result of emerging cultural trends or movements, PR can respond with speed and flexibility. This white paper explores how a “micro-targeted” communications approach can help brands engage with their audience in fresh ways, and spotlights women entrepreneurs as a consumer subset ripe for the (micro) picking. 1
  • 2. MOVING TARGETS Not Dead… but not Perfect { A 2009 Ad Age article entitled “Is Consumer Segmentation Dead” suggests one of the limitations of using this time-honored marketing tool is that consumer segments are never static. People move in and out of purchase cycles as their lives change, adopting different segment identities far more fluidly than typical segmentation models reflect. According to Ad Age, “[A consumer]…can belong to three segments with different behavior patterns, product affinities and interests—depending on the time of day or the day of the week.”1Life is unpredictable, and aconsumer’s reality (as well as It’s challenging to say the least reaching a consumer with – noher segment affinity) changes pun intended – multiple personalities. We don’t believe a one-faster than most segmentation size-fits-all communications strategy is the solution: life isresearch can be refreshed. unpredictable and the consumer’s reality (as well as her segment affinity) changes faster than most segmentation research can be refreshed. A marketer may have identified her as a target but to be sure – she is a moving target. And thanks to the evolution of the social web, she has higher expectations than ever for personalized, hyper-relevant and authentic brand communication. We believe PR can be a valuable asset in understanding and reaching the moving consumer target of today. Although consumer research has not historically been PR’s remit (being more focused on influencer and key stakeholder relationships), the reality of the post-web 2.0 world is that every consumer is potentially an influencer. Understanding this (and these days, who doesn’t?), savvy PR people make consumer research a core element of their planning process. This creates more effective programs and sometimes, even unearths nuggets of insight the marketing research teams overlooked. Creating New Connection Opportunities for Brands What’s a PR pro to do with these insight nuggets? Common sense dictates a “less is more” approach. Suggesting to the client a major campaign shift is probably unwise, but a truly compelling consumer insight could warrant taking a micro-targeting approach. Once associated primarily with direct mail and political campaigns, micro-targeting is gaining 1Michael Fassnacht, “Is Consumer Segmentation Dead?” Advertising Age, April 13, 2009 2
  • 3. greater traction with consumer marketers as a response to the fragmentation of mass mediaover the past decade.2 And it’s not just for specialty brands with small consumer bases, as thisNielsen blog post points out: “The rise of entirely new technologies and mediums such asFacebook, Twitter and other social media…have made micro-targeting a useful tool for abroad range of industries.”3How do we take the lessons of micro-targeting and apply them to PR planning? Five steps:  IDENTIFY the insight you believe indicates potential for a subset of the current consumer target;  JUSTIFY its validity: is this is a statistically credible consumer trend, or a flash-in-the- pan;  CLARIFY your approach: who’s the micro-target and how will you reframe the brand promise so it’s relevant to her;  UNIFY your efforts: make sure messaging is complementary to the larger campaign idea and true to brand equity;  AMPLIFY the message by engaging a laser-focused group of on- and off-line influencers.Let’s see what this looks like in practice.Women Entrepreneurs: The Most InfluentialTarget You’re Not Talking To At DeVries Public Relations, engaging women is our stock-in-trade. We are anagency of (mostly) women, our clients (with a few exceptions) market to women;we have deep relationships with editors at women’s publications as well as some ofthe most well-regarded female influencers in the digital space. We have adedicated research and planning group who help our account teams mine forfresh, relevant way to engage with the women who use (or should be using) ourclients’ products.That’s how we found ourselves investigating the state of entrepreneurshipagainst the backdrop of the Great Recession 18 months ago, with a particular2Tom Agan of Penn, Schoen & Berland noted in a 2007 white paper that “as the media fragments, itbecomes imperative to move away from one idea or execution to multiple messages and offers tailored toeach of hundreds if not thousands of media and influencer sources.”3Jason Green, “Micro-Targeting: It’s Not Just for Niche Brands Anymore” 16, 2010) 3
  • 4. focus on women. We saw potential for consumer packaged goods companies to engage more closely with the influential, fast-growing community of female entrepreneurs. Looking beyond the obvious needs of this group – say, credit services or office supplies – we focused on how a woman nurturing her own company might relate to everyday CPG products. After all, a female entrepreneur might need great accounting software, but she also needs to style her hair and do her laundry – why not engage her in those categories? Women Entrepreneurs: Beyond the Numbers In order to effectively connect with this community, we needed to better understand what drives it. Much has been reported statistically about the growth in numbers of women entrepreneurs,4 less so about these women as individuals. DeVries partnered with The Social Studies Group to learn more about the women behind the numbers – looking at those following traditional entrepreneurial paths as well the newer breed of businesswomen creating careers intended from the outset to fit seamlessly into their lives. The resulting study, An Exploration ofA female entrepreneur might Women Entrepreneurs in Social Media, used aneed great accounting software, “social focal” research approach andbut she also needs to style her took us deep within severalhair and do her laundry—why not entrepreneurialtalk to her about those products? communities to illuminate what motivates and influences them.5 We gained a new understanding of why women choose to strike out on their own and in the process saw one classic stereotype turned inside out: the affluent professional who opts out to pursue a dream (preferably in the slow lane), epitomized by Diane Keaton’s power yuppie- turned-baby food maker in the 1987 film Baby Boom. While many of the women in our study became entrepreneurs to pursue a passion, nearly as many were driven by family demands. A significant number of women even cited financial necessity, illness or job loss as motivators for 4“Over the past 10 years women have been the major force behind the opening of new businesses in the United States. Since 1997, women have been opening new businesses at twice the rate of men, with women-owned businesses now accounting for 28% of all businesses in the United States.” Excerpt from An Exploration of Women Entrepreneurs in Social Media: A Social Focal Report for DeVries Public Relations, The Social Studies Group LLC (2010) 5Social Focal research is qualitative and lends certain elements of methodology and thinking from the established field of research sometimes called netnography. Learn more at The research was conducted spring 2010 among 300+ U.S. women entrepreneurs active online and included a review of blog and social network conversations, forum threads and other online community exchanges. 4
  • 5. starting their own businesses.6 It was clear that the face of female entrepreneurship today is diverse and her motivations complex. Female Entrepreneurship in the Age of the Social Web Our research also indicated that the trade-offs of traditional work-life balance have given way to holistic work-life integration: for many women entrepreneurs, there is little compartmentalization amongIt’s evident the peer-based work, personal life and online presence. The subjects of ourcommunity of women business research were enabled and inspired by social media and socialowners is a significant networking tools, using them for personal branding, productresource for both business marketing and networking. For the many women working solo,and personal decision-making. often from home, these networks serve as a virtual support structure that in some cases has replaced real-life networking.7 It’s evident from the conversations in forums and heavily- trafficked mompreneur/entrepreneur blog networks that the peer-based community of women business owners is a significant resource for both business and personal decisions. 8 This blending of professional and private characterizes much of the dialogue we tracked online, reinforcing the notion that today’s female entrepreneur presents an integrated business and personal identity to the world. Changing Definitions of Success The expression “dual bottom line,” popular in this era of corporate social responsibility, usually refers to an organization’s twin (and presumably equal) goals of profit and purpose. We saw a different kind of “dual bottom line” articulated among the women in our research: while many defined success in conventional terms (growth, profitability), the question of overall happiness and personal growth appeared to be just as important. Crucial to these women is the ability to build a framework for life and business that allows for a more complete experience, establishing flexibility for family time, while still generating revenue and profits.9 6From An Exploration of Women Entrepreneurs in Social Media: A Social Focal Report for DeVries Public Relations, The Social Studies Group LLC (2010), p. 39 : the three leading “motivator” categories into which the subjects could be categorized were passion (35%), family (33%), illness/job loss/financial necessity (15%). 7According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, 85% of women-owned businesses are sole proprietorships. 80% of women-owned businesses generate 50K or less in annual revenue, and over half of those are home-based. (Ibid, p. 3) 8Ibid, p. 28 9Ibid, p. 6 5
  • 6. Connecting with Women Entrepreneurs Diverse motivators, a powerful sense of community, non-traditional notions of success. Add to this a high level of marketing savvy thanks to their own self-branding experience, and you begin to scratch the surface of this vibrant community. The marketer or PR pro seeking to engage women entrepreneurs should start by asking: In what way can my brand… { as wired and networked as she is? ...facilitate her desire for self-expression and community-building? her enhance her dual bottom line? ...matter to the influencers who matter to her? Conclusion A brand’s ability to capture the heart of a consumer requires fluency in her language of choice – not English or Spanish or Chinese, but the language of the identities she adopts throughout her day. Imagine our female entrepreneur: she may start her dayA micro-targeting strategy can as a harried mom getting her kids out the door to school,help brands more effectively but one hour later she’s morphed into the centered,connect with consumers in the hyper-organized CEO of the consulting firm she runs outlanguage they’re speaking right of her home office. She morphs again during her gymnow—in real life and real time. break, this time into passionate yoga devotee. So is she a fast-moving mom, pulled-together CEO, or yoga buff? She is all three, of course. The question is whether brands are as flexible – as “multi-lingual” – as they need to be to turn this communications challenge into a competitive advantage. A micro-targeting strategy can help more effectively connect with consumers in the language they’re speaking right now – in real life and real time. To receive the full copy of An Exploration of Women Entrepreneurs in Social Media, or to explore how the DeVries consumer-centric PR planning approach can enhance your marketing efforts, please contact Stephanie Smirnov at 212.891.0415 or 6