Chasing Your Active Consumers: Catch Them on the Run

Grab Their Attention as They Pursue Their Passion -- When They're Ready to Listen

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If you have a product aimed at active consumers, the best way to capture their attention is to speak to them when they are out and pursuing their passion. The positive associations between their hobby and your brand will start immediately. But choosing how and where to connect is another matter. Choose strategically.

I've worked with brand managers in this arena who go on auto-pilot with their media plans: health clubs! Big marathons! That's where our customers are, they say. But those obvious choices aren't necessarily the best ones for active brands.

Not all active consumers are active in the same way, at the same places or with the same mindset. They may not be listening to you when you think they are, and you may not be talking to them in just the right way. Out-of -home and venue-based marketing offer opportunities to create an authentic connection between brand and athlete that is more long-lasting than many other types of media.

Think about it this way: the more you know about your customers, the easier it is to target marketing that speaks to them and encourages them to take action. That's the beauty of social-media marketing: we know a lot about who our customers are. With active consumers doing what they love to do, marketers have almost the same kind of information. We are much better at predicting what active consumers are thinking, doing and feeling when they're in yoga class, at the driving range, out for a training run or running a marathon. And we know where they are.

Start with customizing the content to fit the environment. A one-size-fits-all message for runners, hikers, bikers is a missed opportunity to connect. Band-Aid (a client) offered samples to families vacationing near national parks. Next, select an environment where you can capture their attention. Hikers hitting the trails in Colorado were reminded that it was "Time to Refuel," by another client, Craisins, after checking trail-guide boards at the base of the mountains.

But here's where it gets tricky. Your psychographic research may tell you that your consumer is a jogger who golfs; and he jogs more than he golfs. Don't go reaching for the marathon sponsorship just yet. Racers have a lot on their minds; you may have a better opportunity to connect your message to your consumer's mindset when he's on the driving range looking at your ad on a tee divider (our client At&T did this). Any time that you can customize your message to where your customer is right at that minute should be as much of a consideration as answering "should I get them when they're hiking or at pilates?"

Let's consider health clubs. Active people are there, right? You can place ads around the clubs, on personal entertainment systems, and you can provide product samples, such as shampoos or energy bars. Product sampling is a great way to capture customers. But with health clubs, the numbers are against you, making your ad buy inefficient. The reality is that 80 percent of the 40 million Americans who have purchased gym memberships are not using them, according to Medical News Today. So when a gym chain claims, say, 10,000 members, keep in mind that the majority are inactive. Of those active members, the 20-80 rule applies: 20 percent of active members attend regularly. The other 80 percent may visit every so often. Your ability to reach your target audience gets even smaller because your message is reaching the same small sub-section of gym-goers, rather than that larger universe that you may be hoping to capture.

Ads in health clubs may go unnoticed, too. Wall-mounted ads become as invisible as the water-bottle holders on the machines. Product sampling is problematic because it's hard to control distribution unless you greatly limit the number of samples per gym, and given that health-club employees are not likely to undergo extensive training, samples aimed at, say, women, may end up just in the communal take-one bin.

Finally, let's be real. Running on a treadmill, climbing a Stairmaster, is just not that much fun. They're tasks that people get through in order to be fit for other activities, whether that 's lifting a toddler off a swing or racing in a duathlon. Is the gym really the best place to encourage a positive association with your brand?

Active consumers can become passionate about your brand when you speak to them when they are out doing what they love best. To figure out your strategy, ask yourself: "Can I meet a need in that environment? Can I create an emotional connection better in one environment than another? Can I link my brand to something positive?" If you can answer "yes," then your campaign will do what it's intended to do: Get the attention of the active consumers, positively associating your brand with their sport.

Sherry Orel is CEO, Brand Connections.
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