Marketing Today: When Your Promotion Doesn’t Fit Your Persona


Sometimes a marketing promotion or program seems like a really good idea. It’s fun. It’s engaging. It has broad appeal. Or at least you think it does because it appeals to you—and you’re not thinking like your ideal customer. You see your ideal customer has a persona—a kind of personality that’s fairly well defined. And what characterizes your customer may not quite be the same thing that characterizes you.

Let me give you an example.

A friend’s wife has been shopping for a car. One of the possibilities she’s considered is a certified used luxury car. Like a lot of shoppers for fairly high-ticket items, she’s spent a lot of time online doing research. Sometimes she’s even engaged in online conversations to ask specific questions about a particular vehicle. Of course that means she’s given up her email address to a potential seller—knowing they would likely contact her if they had something she was interested in.

Sure enough, it happened recently. But the email she received wasn’t quite what she’d been expecting. I’ll repeat it here—generalizing some of the content so as to protect the identity of the dealership involved.

Hi Wendy,

Come and kick off the upcoming football season for your Poughkeepsie Piglets with the team’s Cheerleaders and Mascot! The Cheerleaders and Porky the Piglet will be here at Geronimo Autos this Saturday from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM. Food and drinks will be provided. Also for your participation and test drive you will receive a $500 coupon towards your next new car good through December 15th 2015. Spots will be limited so please RSVP with me for a time slot to meet the Piglets’ Cheerleaders, Mascot, and take a test drive. I look forward to hearing from you soon! Go Team!

There are probably a good number of people here in the Poughkeepsie area that love football and would be absolutely thrilled to meet the team’s cheerleaders and the team mascot. My friend’s wife, however, is not one of them. And I think it might be safe to say that the vast majority of women of a certain age who are shopping for a luxury vehicle would not only not be excited to meet a group of 20-something women in short skirts and halter tops—but would actually prefer not to meet them.

My friend’s wife was certainly not inclined to hang out with the cheerleaders (or the team mascot). But aside from the invitation missing the mark, it actually had additional consequences. After getting the email above, she suggested to her husband that maybe they should consider a different brand of vehicle altogether.

Is it “wrong” to use football—or cheerleaders—to entice someone to a sales event? It may not be wrong, but it’s probably not terribly smart. Cheerleaders and football don’t really have much to do with automobiles. And someone who’s interested in paying for a higher end car is probably not going to care about the dealer’s loyalty to the local team.

Somebody, however, thought it was a good idea—because it appealed to him (and I’m making a fairly confident assumption that it was a “him”). And that’s the big take away. Making your marketing personal is great, but remember: Your marketing isn’t about you or what you like—it’s about your customers. You need to make sure you know your audience and appeal to what matters to them.

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