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Marketing folks throw around terms like target audience and target market, but what does it really mean? And how does it affect your branding? Read on to learn if you’re resonating with the ideal client or if you’re accidentally marketing to yourself.

What does target audience mean?

Your target audience is the group of people most likely to want your products or services. It’s the segment of the population you’re actively trying to bring into your customer base. They’re the people most likely to convert: to move from being interested to an actual customer/client. With slight nuances between the terms, this group can also be called your target market or your ideal client.

However, your target audience may not be the audience you’re targeting. In a perfect world, all of your branding is designed with your true target audience in mind. After all, they’re who you’re going after with this particular product or service.

Target Audience: Does Your Branding Appeal to Your Ideal Client? by Kettle Fire Creative. What does target audience mean? Tennis balls

Why does my target audience matter?

Your target audience needs to be the guiding factor in your branding. Your logo, for example, could be beautifully composed and highly memorable, yet fail to resonate with your ideal client. Michelangelo and Picasso. Elvis and Beethoven. Jim Carrey and Sir Laurence Olivier. All are celebrated “masters” of their art. But they certainly aren’t going to appeal to the same groups. Likewise, great design can be wasted on the wrong audience.

Shift your thinking from good to best fit. Instead of asking, “Is this a good logo?” ask yourself, “Is this the right logo for my audience?” Instead of saying, “I like orange,” ask “Would orange appeal to my ideal client?” No business owner should hate their branding, but make sure your clients’ wants, needs, and preferences speak louder than your own.

Red flag alert! If your branding firm or graphic designer has not asked about your target audience, you’re never going to get the right fit for your market.

Target Audience: Does Your Branding Appeal to Your Ideal Client? by Kettle Fire Creative. Why your target audience matters. Beethoven vs Elvis

Shouldn’t I try to appeal to everyone?

No. This is a common marketing myth. The shotgun method is a bad marketing plan. Making a weak attempt at 1,000 marketing tactics wastes time and money. Focus your efforts on what will connect with those most likely to convert. Even more so, your core branding cannot please everyone.

The same look, feel, and experience will not satisfy all. Babies and geriatrics have different needs. Plant lovers and those with intense allergies do not want the same products. Tech fanatics and off-grid luddites will not respond to the same messaging. If you’re trying to wrangle everybody, you’re connecting with nobody.

By contrast, narrowing your brand toward your key market will make you look better to additional groups! This is called the halo effect. Consumers who see how well you’re doing one thing assume you will do well in other things. It’s not logical, but it’s powerful. Keep your eyes on the target, and watch as additional audiences are drawn to your offerings as well.

Target Audience: Does Your Branding Appeal to Your Ideal Client? by Kettle Fire Creative. Shouldn't I try to appeal to everyone? Crowd vs focused group

What determines my target audience?

Depending on where you are in the life of your businesses, you can determine your target audience in different ways:

Existing base

If you’re already up and running, you’ll most likely define your market around who is already doing business with you. Who responds to your emails, shows up at your location, buys the most product, or refers you the most readily. These are your people. Look at what they have in common: age, lifestyle, affinities, geography, influencers, you name it. Find the common ground among your existing clientele, then focus your branding on that segment.

Product-driven

Let’s say you’ve just invented the world’s great Doohickey. You own all the rights to exclusive Doohickey manufacturing for the next hundred years and you’re ready for it to hit the market. Your brand should appeal to the most likely users of the Doohickey.

Target-driven

On the other end of the spectrum is the business that needs to capture a certain segment and has the resources to create a product around that market. What can we make that targets outdoorsy folks or women with dry skin or teens struggling with math? In this case, the audience is pre-defined and the goods or service should follow its lead.

Target Audience: Does Your Branding Appeal to Your Ideal Client? by Kettle Fire Creative. What determines your target audience. Handshake, box, cyclist. Existing base, product driven, target market driven

Who is my target audience?

That’s the jackpot question. Now that you know you need to determine your target audience, how do you do it? By asking another question:

Who is most likely to benefit from my offerings?

Notice we didn’t say who is most likely to buy. While conversion is significant, asking yourself about who benefits will lead you to a truer, more marketable audience. To answer this question, move past the common list of demographics and think about psychographics as well. Consider age, gender, and location. But also think about their thinking.

A store like Home Depot primarily targets men but not all men. We wouldn’t be surprised if their marketing execs are focusing on men with a do-it-yourself mentality who value home ownership.

Does your product appeal to the young at heart, the tech savvy, the burned-out? Here’s a little exercise to get you started:

Target audience exercise

Imagine someone who benefits from your service/product. Now ask yourself…

  • What does he love to do? Hate to do? Why?
  • What would she do with an extra $100? Why?
  • Where does he go to relax? To play? To dream? Why?
  • What are her thoughts on [fill in the blank] issue or hot topic? Why?

Check out the graphic below for more questions. The most important piece, though, is the why. Why does she prefer orange juice to lemonade? Why does he prefer working from home? Why is this child passionate about proper dog grooming? Those answers are the real takeaway because they connect to pain and values—what frustrates us and what we care about.

Target audience examples

Based on pain and values, here are some example target markets:

Plumbers who are sick of low-quality parts because they value a job well done.

Parents who value independent reading for their kids but are concerned about the content of books.

Understaffed IT departments who aren’t sure how to communicate their needs to decision makers.

Once you have even a simple statement like this in mind, you can assess whether your branding is targeting the right audience.

Target Audience: Does Your Branding Appeal to Your Ideal Client? by Kettle Fire Creative. 20 questions to define your target audience infographic chart
Target Audience: Does Your Branding Appeal to Your Ideal Client? by Kettle Fire Creative

Have more questions about your target audience and its impact on your branding? Ask us in the comments!

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