Before you can effectively create and market a product or a service, you need to have an audience in mind. If you are just starting out in a new venture or considering a makeover to your existing branding, you may be tempted to make that target audience as broad as possible. After all, don’t more people reached ultimately mean more sales made?
The logic in that approach may feel sound, but it doesn’t match with the way that consumers operate in today’s highly specialized markets. We can thank social media and the impact that its connectivity has had on creating increasingly more specific consumer segments for that. To succeed in today’s consumer-driven markets, you need to have a niche, a specialization, a focus that draws deep from a narrow channel.
Let’s take a closer look at why this is the case.
Consumption and Identity
People buy things because those products and services help them craft and communicate a particular identity. As experimental psychologist Ian Zimmerman explains, “we use products symbolizing certain qualities to send the message to others that we also possess those qualities.” There is a relationship between what we buy and who we are. People make purchases both to change their sense of self and to project their existing sense of self to the world.
Perhaps the most obvious examples of these connections between identities and products can be seen in the car market. Driving an eco-friendly Prius sends a different message than driving a massive Escalade. The blue collar work ethic tied up in a Chevy Silverado is different from the CEO-worthy veneer of a Mercedes-Benz. The outdoorsy Subaru Outback attracts a different set of identities than the sleek, urban Honda Fit.
This is not simply a matter of driving the “better” or more expensive car. People choose cars that match their sense of self-identification. Sometimes they choose a car that matches the identity that they want to achieve rather than the identity they already have. How many mountain-ready, rugged SUVs do little more than make a daily commute to the office?
The bottom line is that people don’t buy things just because they need them. They buy things because those objects become touchstones of their own identities. These products and services become tangible representations of a feeling, and when a brand can truly capture a sense of identity, they will be rewarded with loyalty and consistent customers.
In the past, someone with a penchant for running may have joined a local gym and identified with the people there under the general umbrella of “athletes.” This identity certainly came with a consumer persona. There were clothes and accessories to buy to help both live out this identity and to project it to the world.
Today, though, that umbrella has splintered into dozens of micro-identities. Instead of just being an “athlete,” a person might identify as a “runner.” Getting even more specific, that person might identify as a trail runner rather than someone who trains on a treadmill. She might further differentiate herself by the distance that she runs. She can find a community of people online who fit her specific sense of self: a long-distance trail runner.
This happens across all segments of the market. Specialization allows people to find a group for specific identification. No longer is age, gender, race, and region a sufficient marketing persona. Instead, it’s important to know how people identify themselves in more specific ways in order to give them a truly representative product or service.
If making a product or service that caters to the needs of such a specialized group seems daunting, don’t worry. The most important thing is authenticity. If you can genuinely meet the needs of a specific segment of your market and communicate that identity to them, the rest almost takes care of itself. While the specialization of today’s markets can present some challenges, it also presents opportunities. If you tap into a niche market and become a trusted presence within that community, the interconnectedness becomes a launching pad for fiercely loyal customers who are eager to share their appreciation with others in the group. As Jessica Stansberry, an entrepreneur who took niching seriously, explains, listening to your customer base and adjusting to meet their needs is the most important step you can take. If you’re ready to find ways to communicate your value to your niche market, contact Adam Lowe Creative today to get started.