The Most Powerful Words in Marketing: I Am NOT the Target Market

Every time I get irritated at a rap or hip hop song, some musician should get a bonus.


Because I am EXACTLY NOT the target market they are aiming for. Rap and hip hop should irritate middle-aged parent types like me, just as much as Ice-T and early Prince freaked out my elders when I was trying to pass myself off as cool. (For the record, I do like Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash and every single member of the Sugar Hill Gang  – so it’s not that I dislike all rap. I just dislike all rap that wasn’t made during a time best described as “back in the day.”)

Which brings me to Axe Body Spray. Axe has been getting all sorts of grief ever since word hit the internet about the Axe Multiple Girlfriends App. Ogilvy Tunisia (Who knew? Is there an Ogilvy South Pole? Probably.) … Where was I? Oh yeah … Ogilvy Tunisia created an Axe Facebook campaign built around the idea of letting guys brag about how many women they were dating at the same time.  The app was part of a Tunisian campaign created after research showed that Tunisian guys love bragging about how many girls they can line up. The app let Tunisians males (and I assume others, unless it had a passport ID device built in – maybe it did) change their relationship status to let their friends know that they now had multiple girlfriends.

And, no surprise, a lot of folks got upset about it, so you can see the internet is still working just fine. But while I totally respect people’s right to complain about it, that doesn’t make it a bad campaign. Refer back to what I said about rap music to see why. The people who complained were not the target market — a Tunisian guy — and neither am I. I don’t like bragging about the number of girlfriends etc.  (I also have never taken to the streets and helped peacefully overthrow a repressive regime, but that’s another issue altogether.)

Ogilvy Tunisia’s assignment was to sell Axe, and I bet they did, which means they succeeded. PLEASE do not think I condone how this (or pretty much any other Axe campaign) portrays women. I do not. I am well aware of how horribly women are treated in a lot of places, not the least of which are many Arab states. Go and protest all you want.  What I’m saying is that because it pissed so many people off, the campaign showed it was perfect for its target market. This was a brave campaign that wouldn’t have survived design by committee.

The Most Dangerous Phrase in Advertising
Which brings me to a great piece I read recently by Phil Johnson about the most dangerous expression in advertising: “I like it!” Be suspicious if all the marketing/ad folks say this. Why? Because they are NOT the target audience. This group spends way too much time thinking about what it is they are trying to sell. And by “way too much” I mean more than an actual consumer. You spend enough time thinking about selling widgets and you really do think that the advent of the purple widget with extra wide grooves will totally revolutionize the widget market by replacing the puce widget with the wide grooves. In fact, consumers want a widget that works better than the old model and doesn’t cost more, and they are going to think about this decision for exactly five seconds before deciding which widget to buy.

Herding iPad Using Cats
All of which brings me – finally – to the Friskies games for cats iPad app. Yes, for cats. Imagine a usability tester behind the reflective glass as a focus group of cats ignores or attends to iPads.  Once again, this demonstrates that I AM NOT THE TARGET MARKET. I own an iPad but not a cat. If I owned a cat and was able to, I’d trade it for a second iPad.

But for those who love both cats and iPads, I get how this would be cool and worthy of telling others about. It’s a great way to extend the brand experience.

Sometimes “not getting it” is the exactly right viewer experience for those who are “out of segment.” Both Axe and Friskies are silly campaigns, and as a marketer I know they work; just not for me. And that’s okay.

5 Responses to "The Most Powerful Words in Marketing: I Am NOT the Target Market"

  • bella2222

    September 27, 2011


  • Todd Bartlett

    May 27, 2012

    Great Post Dave. The Axe Facebook campaign is similar to a recent Crossfit campaign by Reebok which had the tagline “Cheat on your girlfriend but not your workout.” Similar to Axe, the Reebok ad offended a lot people but they were not the target audience.


  • Karolina

    May 29, 2012

    Nice article Dave. The AXE Facebook campaign works well, I saw couple of my friends using the application with multiple relationship status and yes it pulled out a lot of negative voices and controversy – but that was the plan! And again Oglivy Tunisia succeded with their “brilliant” campaign.

  • Cat Mooney

    May 31, 2012

    The facebook tweak on the Axe campaign was clever as it used existing technology in a clearly playful and innovative way that got people to use it personally. In a way it shares some similarity with the simpsonize me and madmen yourself campaigns in the past because customers used these tools and then shared them on their facebook pages. They used themselves as personal ambassadors of sorts to endorse these shows, as the Tunisian men used their facebook pages to promote Axe (and I’m assuming access to their personal info for the Axe app?).

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