The Family Test: Connecting at the most personal level

A good marketer will make personal relevance the focus of every communication strategy.

I once held the head marketing position at The Virginian-Pilot. The paper had a simple goal—increase daily readership. What made the simple task complex was having to buck the tide of declining readership that every newspaper in the world was seeing. How do you compel consumers to use a product they don’t find essential? It’s the same question we ask in composing any marketing message: what is the most relevant message we can place in front of the audience?

In the newspaper’s case, the question was about content. The publisher, Bruce Bradley at the time, is a person I’ve always considered a mentor. He was able to crystallize it.

“If I told you today that tomorrow morning there would be a feature article about your family in the newspaper, you would read it. If I could say that same thing to everyone in our market, everyone would read it.”

Not just relevance, but personal relevance. The more finely you can target a relevant message, the more likely you are to create a motivating connection with your target. I can tell you we found that relevance, and we moved the needle on readership.

Establishing personal relevance, in creative messaging, in message placement, in price-value relationship, is the Holy Grail that marketers search for. The path to personal relevance is illuminated by insight; data and experience gained through a dogged pursuit of the consumer.

A good marketer will make personal relevance the focus of every communication strategy. If you can’t look at a message and explain how and why it connects with the consumer, on a personal level, then you have not refined the communication strategy enough. You have not gained the right insight. Make sure your messages pass the family test—so solid a connection that you can guarantee the consumer’s response.

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