Consider this offer for a moment: 'We can help you target your messages so that you can market your product more effectively.'
On the face of it, a great offer. Targeting and effectiveness are surely hand in glove, and just what every marketer wants. But, if we're being honest, we more often than not pay lip service to targeting and segmentation.
Consultants are consulted, research conducted, models built, audience profiles given fancy names, presentations circulated, heads nod and we all agree to go for potentially the most profitable segments.
And then one or more of several scenarios occur… Often we find that there is a spectrum of people from the very engaged with a disease, category or brand – right through to the not really engaged at all. And lots of people in the middle who change attitude and behaviour over time - without the courtesy of telling you.
Finding meaning in segmentation
Sometimes we realise that the engaged ones will probably be looking for information anyway, and if they're people with, or concerned about, chronic diseases they will probably be keeping themselves abreast of, or waiting for, new developments. Your marketing money probably won't make a lot of difference here.
If they're at the less engaged end of the spectrum then they're, well, less engaged. And you might baulk at the task of getting them to change their habits. And the guys in the middle are a lot harder to pin down in any case.
So that's when another scenario often kicks in: the realisation that you'd reach them all through the same set of finite channels in any case, giving little scope for message variance.
Oh, and that your sales guys have probably long since thrown away the segmentation presentation and are more reliant on the mental note they made about Dr X's new born daughter or their love of golf.
And occasionally, as if all this isn't bad enough, you realise that the concept your creative agency presented to you (that you love) might not resonate with the 'suffering seniors' as well as the 'active alarmists'.
But then it's not as if one segment of patients is only interested in efficacy, whilst the others are just concerned about side effects – so maybe that starts to matter less. Hmm, the dilemma.
Updating notions of targeting
Yet, despite all this, marketing still gets done. And I'd argue that the reason for this is that good news (and, even more so, bad news) has a way of travelling almost despite what you do or don't do by way of targeting.
Whether it's the clinical trials that professional bodies and patient groups alike watch with interest; whether it's the discussion forums – physical or virtual – where advancements are weighed up; whether it's Medscape editorial that brings the news or Wikipedia articles that are consulted for more information, they all have one thing in common: they're not really that targeted.
Yet this doesn't mean we shouldn't make branded properties. Of course we should, as there's always a time to hear from the horse's mouth.
And a well-designed digital experience that understands and accounts for all the different ways in which people look for information is a wonderfully valuable tool. As are knowledgeable sales teams who know what's best about your product, and whom your customers can ask meaningful questions.
In fact, once you start to embrace the fact that so many people nowadays start engaging with brands through search, the notion of 'targeting' seems quite monodirectional and old school.
Maybe it's time we thought more about who is likely to target us, rather than the other way round.
Matt Hunt, European Head of Planning, Grey Healthcare Group Matthew.Hunt@ghgroup.com