Adland, It’s Time To Put Those Tired Assumptions (Clichés?) To The Test

Adland, It’s Time To Put Those Tired Assumptions (Clichés?) To The Test

In this guest post, Pureprofile’s managing director, Kelvin Kirk (pictured below), argues adland is too often governed by assumptions that, when put under the microscope, don’t hold water…

A well-known FMCG brand recently made some assumptions about the target audience for a gluten-free product range and were on path to invest heavily in marketing to the trendy Millennial Mums category.  It seemed like the right plan; this consumer group fits the stereotype of being more tuned into food trends and fussier about their family’s diets. Kelvin Kirk

After soft launching with potential customers they discovered, whilst this target market was interested in their product range, other customer segments were more engaged with the product. These included dads, single parents and those of Asian ethnicity – none of which fitted the original marketing stereotype or the relevant imagery of the digital creative.  What a missed opportunity for that brand had they not tested their assumptions.
It’s human nature to assume most other people think and feel in ways that we can relate to.  It’s also natural to imagine the consensus view presented to us in product campaigns on packaging, billboards or TV screens must be founded in truth.

Of course, neither assumption is correct – as was highlighted in the recent AdNation report, which identified significant projection bias within our local advertising and media industries.  The polarising political outcomes of the US election and Brexit in the UK also underscore this reality rather painfully.

Poorly researched assumptions are common in Ad Land creative – here’s a few examples:


  1. “We all aspire to be hipsters.”I’ve lost count of how many creative campaigns feature twenty something consumers – whether it’s cars, appliances or travel – it seems the target market for almost every consumer category is a young male or female hipster.  Even a glance at some of the latest researcharound car ownership will tell us that 20-somethings have a lower rate of car ownership than previous generations, with the cashed-up trendy 20-somethings more often inclined to take an Uber than own a car.
  1. “Your postcode determines your values and interests.” Postcodes are a traditional segmentation tool for campaigns, but are often poor determinants of interests, habits or spend.  The spectrum of income levels and propensity to spend can be extreme even in wealthy suburbs – for example Bondi’s ‘Eastern Suburbs’ is a broad mix of $5 million houses, lower value flats, and everything in between. To truly engage with target consumers, we need to stop looking through the lens of suburban stereotypes and rethink individual values of those consumers.
  1. “Millennials are impulse spenders.”  We’ve all heard the stereotype of the fickle, naive millennial spender who will readily part with their cash if the right random opportunity (such as smashed avocado on toast) presents itself.  In fact, research and experience tells us that the majority of millennials are thoughtful, budget conscious consumers who spend hours researching before they make a purchase.  In this light, appealing to ‘impulse spending’ within this age demographic may be a flawed assumption which limits our impact.

Digital platforms have made it much easier and more affordable than ever to test our assumptions on audiences. It is hard to imagine why marketers would commit significant money to campaigns without first ensuring we are engaging the right people.

Beyond that, researching with an open mind can deliver valuable insights that turn into great opportunity for brands.  For example, a surprise finding recently was that Australians of all income levels are spending more money on their pets than they spend on themselves. This defies logic in a tough economy – but armed with that information, a pet food company or pet accessory brand can adjust their marketing strategy accordingly.

Recognising that our hunches or beliefs around our favourite topics don’t translate to universal truths can be disconcerting. Making those assumptions on behalf of brands can be fatal.


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