Just Off Target

by Ben Perreira

As marketers, the more we know about our customers (current and prospective), the more effectively we should be able to reach them.

Today I offer a counter-argument.

I have been surfing long enough that I have seen a glut of what I would describe as poor representations of surfing in TV, film and commercials. These depictions make me cringe. There’s one such example in this Android Wear promo at 0:20. Why do marketers continue to do this? Don’t they have people who know surfing at their agencies, or at least have them at their disposal?

Then, watching the Olympics this year, it all made sense. I ate up every story NBC put on the air about sports I knew little to nothing about. I began to love ice skating, curling, downhill skiing, luge, and more! And I began to love NBC for telling the stories in this way. With surfing I would have been picking the stories apart. But I didn’t really care if NBC’s representations were accurate of those sports.

Being culturally authentic is imperative for reaching fervent participants in endemic settings (e.g. Surfer Magazine), but considerably less effective when reaching those with less of an interest in the nuances of a given activity. This is also why brands market SUVs by showing the vehicles going off-road, something few SUV drivers do. The fantasy is more powerful than the mundane reality.

The best stories contain enough truth to be believable and enough fiction to create excitement. The core of participants is small. The next couple rings around the core leave much more room for storytellers to tell these widely relatable stories.