Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

I found myself doing it again.  Staring at a shelf trying to decide what to buy.  The clock was ticking in my head as I tried to make a decision, any decision. Recognizing that I wasn’t getting anywhere I spun around only to find another person right behind me. Also trying to see the shelf. I quickly apologized and noted that I’m a Libra. She laughed and said she was too.  Then we laughed and laughed together. Why?  Because Libras know that making decisions, for a Libra, is often fraught with anxiety.

It’s an insider’s joke. Had I turned around and  confronted a Taurus, for instance, the response wouldn’t have been the same.

Insider jokes, phrases, words and references link  people together. It is comforting to know that we are connected to others through common experiences. It shows that we are related in some fashion. But, should you use inside jokes in your marketing?  It depends.

One of the most common examples is generational. Music, certain references, celebrities and others will remind particular generations of times past, or times present.  They are designed to connect with pleasant memories and good experiences. However, audiences may not get the references, and thus fail to connect with your messaging.

I know I am missing the point of some advertising, but that’s because I’m not familiar with the references.

I do enjoy one of the auto-maker’s Heisman House campaign.  I recognize the players featured and like the way they’ve created an ongoing storyline that highlights their product.  It’s entertaining.

Some of my friends don’t think they’re so great though. They don’t recognize the Heisman players, and a few don’t really even like football. They are not amused.

The key factor to successful campaigns of this nature is having an affinity for your target audience(s).  If you are using a laser focus to reach specific groups, then this may be a good tactic to get attention. If not, remember that you could lose part of your audience if your insider knowledge isn’t recognized. For instance, the auto maker runs these particular commercials during football games.  They have other ads in other places designed to connect with different audiences.

Many businesses don’t have that type of budget. What do you do? Keep abreast of current trends as they impact your customers and clients. Know what is relevant to them and what isn’t. Do your market research to understand where your audience(s) are, how to most effectively reach them, and how they are wired (as much as possible). Ask them. Seek feedback through focus groups, surveys, stakeholder meetings, evaluations and simply conversation where possible.

Recent studies indicate that successful marketers are more than 200 percent more likely to report conducting audience research at least once per quarter. So, researching your target audience is a must. It’s a gateway to relating to your audiences in a more meaningful way.

Really, it comes down to the idea that Jay Baer explored in his book, Youtility. “What if instead of trying to be amazing, you just focused on being useful? What if you decided to inform, rather than promote?”

Target audience research is a way of turning the spotlight away from your interests and on your audiences’ needs.  Surveys, customer interviews, and other forms of feedback help to laser-focus on the connection between your audiences’ problems and desires and your ability to help solve them.

How you conduct your research depends upon your overall goals, needs, timing and budget. If you’re engaged in this already, good for you. If you aren’t, start small.  But start.

And to my fellow Libras, I get you. Really.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising.  She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or LinkedIn.

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