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The Target is Not the Market

Fred Perrotta
Fred Perrotta
2 min read

Table of Contents

While re-reading The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, the following paragraph from Chapter 13 struck me.

The target is not the market. That is, the apparent target of your marketing is not the same as the people who will actually buy your product. Even though Pepsi-Cola’s target was the teenager, the market was everybody. The 50-year-old guy who wants to think he’s 29 will drink the Pepsi.

Even the biggest brands target somebody, not everybody.

Some of the book’s examples are outdated, but the principles still hold true.

The target of Marlboro advertising is the cowboy, but the market is everybody. Do you know how many cowboys are left in America? Very few. (They’ve all been smoking Marlboro’s.)

Your total addressable market is not necessarily the target of your marketing.

Even if you know your market, how do you pick your target?

Tim Ferriss talks about prioritizing the one item on your to do list that will be the “domino” and make the rest easier or unnecessary. Let’s take the same approach to target markets.

Niche Down

The lesson is always to niche down. Sharpen the focus of your product and the target of your marketing.

When you don’t niche down, you create a product that is tolerable for everyone but great for no one.

When you do niche down, you create a product that is perfect for someone. Do your research so that you know who that someone is. Maybe it’s you. That was the case with Tortuga.

Create aspirational marketing. Give people something to want. Your customers should see their ideal selves in your product and marketing.

Test that hyper-focused product and observe which customers are the happiest. Keep making them happier. Focus on maximizing your five-star reviews, not minimizing your one-star reviews.

An Example From My Business

For Tortuga, our target market has always been carry on, city travelers. Not commuters, not students, not hikers, not business travelers, and not heavy packers.

Most travelers, especially first-timers, don’t know that travel backpacks exist. They buy tall, cylindrical hiking backpacks. Many of our customers have traveled for years and been through multiple bags without finding the right one for their needs. Then they find us.

We do well with the researchers, the obsessives, the nerds. People like ourselves.

Sharing information via our blog and comparison pages has helped us to find our people. Our target is the frequent traveler whose friends go to them for advice on where to go, how to find cheap flights, and what gear to buy.

First-time and occasional travelers will still find us and buy our bags. They aren’t our target, but they are part of our market.

How to Focus on Your Target

I always think, “How can we focus more on our target market?”

Every touchpoint with customers should be evaluated for relevance to your target market.

  • Do your photos show your product being used for the right purpose?
  • Do your models represent your target market?
  • Do your product pages emphasize your audience's preferred media (text, photos, videos)?
  • Are you using the support channels (phone, email, chat) that your target prefers?

Reaching the Rest of the Market

The rest of the market will come. You (the market) have probably owned a pair of Nikes even if you aren’t an athlete (the target).

The rest of the market will come when you make a product that your target loves. Don’t let it tempt you to water down your marketing. Even huge companies like Nike and Coca-Cola showcase an aspirational target in their marketing.