Almost every successful brand that’s gained traction, has either consciously, or perhaps coincidentally, operated with two target groups in mind. The first, the primary target group, is the aspirational group, who I refer to as "magnets." They're the ones attracting others to wherever they are. The second group I call "takers," and they're the ones being attracted. The important revenue stream comes from the takers, but with no magnets, there will be no takers.
Let's define the terms more vividly. Say you drive past the newest, most happening nightclub in town. On any given evening you will see a line of people outside, all patiently waiting to be let in. You would naturally assume from this that the venue is packed. Those you see in the line are the takers. Surprisingly, if you look more closely at the venue, you’ll see that it’s not that full. There are, however, a number of groups sitting around tables, talking, drinking, tapping their toes, and swaying to the beat. These are the magnets--or at least that’s what the nightclub would have us believe.
Talking not long ago with a high-rolling nightclub operator in New York City provided me with a keener insight into this idea. He explained that it’s a fine balance between magnets and takers that creates the right kind of buzz. Celebrities aside, clubs have other criteria by which they measure social cachet. There’s gender, height, personal networks, fashion, hairstyle, and even followers. The people on the door carefully control the particular milieu that the club aspires to. They are well schooled in the art of knowing who to admit, or not admit. These gatekeepers are offered significant bonuses to get the mix right. Too many magnets with not enough takers means too many complimentary drinks and not enough purchases. Too many takers, and the nightclub loses its allure, and the stream of guests being drawn in will have moved on to the next hot venue.
Obviously the ins and outs of this are more complex. Companies of the future will not only work with magnets and takers; they’ll also have to operate with two distinct deadlines: official and unofficial. The first time I became aware of the importance of operating with two different campaign release dates was when I was working with the Morgensons family as part of a $3 million research study for my latest book Brandwashed. The experiment was inspired by the Hollywood movie The Joneses, in which a fake family was tasked with promoting products to friends and neighbors. We decided to create an identical scenario, with one important difference--this time it was for real.
One of the key learnings that emerged from this experiment was the notion that a product needs to be "seeded" into the market long before the official release date. This allows magnets to spread the word and generate the hype, before the takers, well, take over. The experiment taught us that such seeding seems to create the momentum needed before the official release. We learned that seeding should often take place several months--typically nine--before the official release.
Since social media has become a key ingredient in every marketing campaign, the importance of including aspirational target groups in every new brand release is likely to become the norm. The fact is that in future, no brand will be able to successfully operate with only one target group. Instead, there must be a conscious division of target groups into magnets and takers, in order to be strategically viable. This will encourage a new discipline among senior management--they will be forced to learn patience. Every executive expects (or should I say, hopes) that on the day their new brand is released, there’ll be thousands of customers waiting outside the doors, desperate to buy their product. A bit like what goes on at the Apple stores. Behind the scenes, brands will be carefully crafting a two-tier release plan many months ahead of the official release.