OPINION22 November 2022

Rory Sutherland: Taking aim

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Behavioural science Impact Opinion Trends

In his latest column for Impact, Rory Sutherland explores moving away from thinking about a target market towards a more serendipitous approach.

Colourful powder explosion

The very phrase ‘target market’ is revealing. It brings to mind a set of concentric circles with a bullseye in the middle. This bullseye is of course your ‘core’ target market or audience.

Like ‘audience’, ‘market’ is used in the singular. The driving idea being that the closer someone is to some demographic or notional ideal, the more attention and expense should be devoted to their conversion. And that, just as a target has only one centre, a target market has at its centre one ideal customer with other, less valuable customers radiating outwards, progressively diminishing in importance in proportion to the extent they differ from that ideal in one or more characteristics.

I suspect this idea is popular in some digital circles, since a linear model of that kind is amenable to optimisation algorithms and so forth. Whether it bears much relation to reality is a separate question.

Recently, a number of prominent ...