Marketing and the Parable of the Fruit Picker

A while back, a marketing company came to me with a very impressive design brief for a new product that they were launching. They needed a web agency to develop a website for them to use primarily as a sales tool to sell the concept to their clients. In their proposal they had I feel correctly identified their target market and designed a brand and corporate identity that played directly to the aspirations of that market - an example of very good targeted branding. However, a committee came in and looked at the website we had developed for them and decided that the design was too target market specific and they wanted us to broaden the general appeal of the website. After spending thousands of pounds on a new website, the company seriously wanted us to look at their core design and make it "More commercial". This was a delicately designed, very pretty website; full of lifestyle, aspirational imagery and perfect for its original target market. Making it more commercial in this case was like plastering sponsorship decals on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Where did it all go wrong? The first step in branding is to identify your target market. Do your research in phase one. If you have a product idea, establish who is most likely to buy it and focus your branding and marketing effort on them. This is where the mistake is usually made. The temptation is to try and design your brand with as broad appeal as possible. This is common sense. The more people who like your brand and are attracted by it, the more potential customers you have. But this is flawed thinking. The best way to grow a customer base is to have a strong identity that really speaks to your desired audience. People however are all different.  Even the most popular and powerful mass market brands like Coca Cola and Google have detractors. To reach the mass market, a design or marketing message has to be so severely watered down that it loses the ability to compel its primary market. This situation is all too common and it can really slow the progress of a new brand. A good way to illustrate this scenario is to imagine that you in an orchard full of (insert favourite fruit here). If you look at one tree you will notice that it is full of fruit and if you have an hour you can pick it bare of 100 lovely juicy (your favourite fruit). So you commence picking, within five minutes you will have picked all the fruit within arms reach - lets say 20 fruit. At this point you will start to struggle reaching the fruit on the top half of the tree. They are tantalisingly close so you exert more and more effort in the struggle to reach each fruit. Sure, morally this feels great. Each freshly picked fruit is a small victory and no doubt will be all the sweeter for it. In the end you may reach the last fruit on the tree. Feeling very content you climb down from the ladder pleased and fulfilled with your hard days work and your just rewards. It may have taken 3 times as long as you originally thought but you are probably most pleased with the few surprise fruit that you hadn't even seen. 120 fruit for 3 hours work, well done. Compare that to the targeted picker. He knows that he has 1 hour to pick as much fruit as he can. Realising that each tree has about 20 low hanging fruit, it will take 5 minutes to pick those low hanging fruit. He can hit 12 trees in his hour delivering 240 fruit and plenty of time to enjoy them. Our targeted picker did not work as hard but got better results because he knew how to target his low hanging fruit. A growing brand will benefit massively from the same approach. Identify your low hanging fruit. There should be enough of them out there to keep you busy.

Insights by Matthew Jensen

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