Part Two: Defining the Core Customer

This article is part two of a five part series entitled “Building A Successful and Authentic Brand.”

Customer Biography

Defining a brand’s core customer typically begins with creating a single customer biography, that identifies an ideal customer by name and describes a customer’s life in detail. This exercise gives the customer a face. Each customer biography should include key demographics and psychographics, full of texture and details, which can then be used to ensure proper alignment between customer and brand.

A Day In the Life

Building a biography by considering a typical day in the life of the ideal customer, can be a useful approach to this exercise. It will provide nuance beyond the typical demographic details of age, sex, income and location. The biography includes details such as the fact the customer lives in an doorman apartment on the corner of Bleeker and Sixth in the Village and grabs an almond latte at the local coffee shop on the corner, while listening to their favorite podcast, “RadioLab,” on their walk to work at a boutique marketing agency, in SoHo. They are carrying an extra bag with their locally-made yoga clothes to the studio near work. Between the demographic data points, rich psychographic details begin to emerge that provide insight into the values of a core customer. Brands can understand better where to provide their service/product, how much a customer is willing to pay for a service/product beyond the actual cost, and how they will engage with the product in their daily lives. For example, a brand like Lululemon who sells their yoga leggings for well over $100, are clearly selling more than just a product, they are providing an experience and community.

Most importantly, by doing this exercise, brands learn how to authentically engage and communicate with their customers in a variety of settings. Continuing the example above, if the customer is listening to a podcast on their walk to work, advertising on the subway is probably not going to be effective; while having a host talk about a branded product may be very effective. Or perhaps the customer is listening to their favorite playlist on their headphones, which then gets disrupted by loud in-store music, or the “hip DJ” who was hired to attract customers like them, but ends up only causing annoyance. Looking at the customer holistically, full of texture, can help to alleviate these common mistakes.

Too Focused?

Photo:  Rawpixel  on  UnSplash

Photo: Rawpixel on UnSplash

A common concern among brands is if they focus too much on one customer, they may alienate others. They are also concerned that they may eliminate a potential customer base, by being too focused on one. However, the opposite is usually true. The more clear the brand mission and values are, the more likely a brand will attract their core customer, as well as overlapping customers. Said differently, a core customer might find everything they need at your store, while an overlap customer will make a point to come in for that one product they can’t get anywhere else. A focused brand, is an authentic brand, and engenders loyalty, beyond the tangible. And true, it might also engender hate by those who don’t like it. The two extremes of love and hate are much preferred over a milquetoast, take-it-leave-it attitude about a brand.

Additionally, once a strong, authentic point of view is established, brands are better able to recognize opportunities for expansion into other products and services. Brands are also better able to segment their customers, to ensure a more one-on-one approach. For example, a brand which opens a store in NoMad, the neighborhood du jour in Manhattan, would be wise to consider that many of their potential customers are tourists and staying at one of the local trendy hotels, rather than a typical, working New Yorker. These customers may be part of the intended target market of the brand, but in this context are shopping differently—looking for something that is a souvenir from New York City, something unique to the neighborhood. This type of nuanced segmentation strategy is on display in Opening Ceremony’s shop in the Ace Hotel New York. The store features quite a different assortment from their downtown locations, and yet it is still very on brand.

—Joshua Williams, Chief Branding Officer, QueerCut

Part Three of this Series explores mission-based brands and niche marketing.