Ban Broad-stroking: Detailed audience information shortens the journey


“Broad-stroking - defined as: (idiomatic, especially of a narrative or artistic work) Developments, movements, or descriptions presented in a bold or sweeping manner, without intricacy, adornment, or subtlety.”

For the sake of this meandering thought, we’re talking about people specifically. Marketing is constantly putting vast swathes of people into various buckets and assuming that if they come up with a plan to match this “broad-stroke” based identity, that everyone in that bucket is going to get on board. It’s 2019, why haven’t we moved on from this totally ludicrous proposition.

Here, try this; 

  • Think of someone you know who is late 30s, say 38. Got em? Good. 

  • Now think of someone you know who is around 27? Got em? Super! 

  • Now listen to me when I say I think they behave the same way, love the same things, communicate in the same manner, eat the same food, listen to the same music, watch the same TV shows etc etc. I’m wrong, aren’t I? Course I am, I’m an idiot.
kylie j.gif

Yet day in and day out we are bombarded with “expert” opinion and “thought leadership” pieces on why we need to do X to market Y to broad sweeping category Z, ie: Millennials (of which both the above people you thought belong). Same goes for Gen-Z, Gen X, Gen A, B, C, Kylie Genner, Gennifer Aniston, Gensen Butten, Genny From The Block and so on, so forth.

The first question you should be asking yourself as a brand manager or marketer is “who is my audience?” If the answer you’re coming up with is “everyone”, here’s a tip;


Neither is the answer “everyone between the ages of 18-30”, or for that matter “all females”, or even “Hispanic people”. Without a clear understanding your actual target audience you may as well take a can of petrol and a lighter to your budget.


Every campaign aims to get the maximum reach, engagement and investment from everyone. That’s a given, but trying to take over the world in one foul swoop is beyond stupid.

  • Tell me how to sell to young professionals?

Smart marketers might use broad demographics to select a starter-audience, but then chip away until they’ve found as realistic a prospect as possible using things like need state, behavioural ethos, financials and convenience measure, social listening, geo-location, propensity to purchase, market fluidity and/or a myriad of other psychological and research tools.

  • Tell me how to sell to young professionals, 25-30 years old with a bit of disposable income, living in city centres or commuter towns, time poor but digitally savvy, who spend majority of their work day in front of a screen but worry about blue light exposure, train twice a week with their local GAA club and go to the gym every other day?

Task is getting slightly easier right?

With a fully researched and detailed insight on your audience identity and knowing your own brand message inside-out you’re then in a position to best brief a creative team to knock it out of the park. The creatives can still let their imaginations absolutely run wild, but they have the safety in a knowledge anchor that underpins their reasoning. The knot that stops them floating into space. Knowing the audience intimately is as much about know what not to do, as it is what will work. The research is never the sexiest part of the journey, but it definitely shortens it.

Tell me I’m wrong.


Gavin Coffey