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Know Your Audience Better Than They Know Themselves

Avoid These Pitfalls of Audience Targeting Through Persona-Based Research

Let’s start with the basics: What are audience personas and why is persona-based research so important?

Personas bring together empirical insights about an organization’s audience and present a fictional representation of what that person is like—what they think and feel, how they behave and make decisions, where we can reach them and how we can most effectively engage them. Spending the time to develop realistic audience personas brings your audience to life so you can connect with them on a deeper level.   

True power comes from understanding what moves your audience—how they think and feel, what they value, and how they spend their time and live their lives. 

The Five Biggest Mistakes Marketers Make When Targeting Their Audience 

Mistake #1: Identifying People by Surface-level Characteristics 

We’re talking about being too focused on demographics and not considering more. For example, the audience segments “moms in their 20s” or “Hispanic businesspeople” each assumes that all of the members in these groups will think alike—which is wildly untrue. Tunnel vision via demographics may blind you to other valuable factors that make your audiences unique.   

How to avoid Individuals are always more complex than their identity categories. Knowing who they are is the first step, but the next step is the most important part: understanding their motivations and behaviors. 


Mistake #2: Being Too Inclusive and Not Focused Enough

Imagine targeting all moms.” Yet many of us know all too well that moms with older kids have different priorities than moms with toddlers. Affluent moms have different lifestyles than moms who struggle to make ends meet. And so on. The result? Creative that just gets a “meh” response because by trying to speak to everyone, it actually doesn’t speak to anyone. 

How to avoid – You may think a larger audience means more profit, but how would you even begin to target such a broad, undefined group? Be real with your strategy. Not everyone will like your product. But finding the group that does is more valuable than trying to appeal to everyone.  


Mistake #3: Making Broad Assumptions Based on Bias, Not on Data

Just because you are part of a demographic, doesn’t mean you embody all of it. This is a big bias to get past, especially when talking about an audience that is similar to yourself. “I’m a parent, and my kids like to run around in the dirt, therefore I think all parents want to find activities where their kids can get dirty outside.” Or “I’m a 30-something male and I’m super motivated by career growth at this stage in my life, so therefore all males in their 30s must feel the same.” While anecdotes are great tools to understand an audience, they can often misguide strategic decisions, especially when extrapolated to an entire population.  

How to avoid – Biases are tricky. It’s crucial to keep an open mind and ask broad, exploratory questions based on empirical data rather than assuming you know. Both quantitative and qualitative research tactics can help you keep that open mind, including surveys, focus groups, interviews and first- and third-party behavioral data.

Mistake #4: Not Even Asking the Question

Let’s say you’re advertising a new food product. Assuming “everyone eats, so everyone can be a target” is a far more common pitfall than you might think. By forgoing defining a realistic audience set, you’re leaving yourself without any tools to build smart paid media and creative strategies. Building a campaign without defining your audience or digging deep enough to wonder who will buy your product and why they care is a surefire way to achieve mediocre KPIs. 

How to avoidBe curious. Dig deep to uncover who your audience truly is, what motivates them and why they would even care.


Mistake #5: Using Outdated Information

2020 may not seem that long ago, but consumer behaviors and the global climate have shifted dramatically since then. Always pay close attention to the release dates of reports, surveys and other data. Depending on what you’re using it for, there’s an expiration date on data due to how quickly the world evolves.   

How to avoidCheck in on your data continuously and seek out the freshest data. For example, our audience research tools are updated daily to give the most complete picture available at any time.  


Our team has the expertise and proprietary tools that can uncover your unique audiences with up-to-the-day, timely insights. The power of our approach is that we are 100% backed by empirical data, not groupthink. We give you more than just audience demographics; we dig deep into 14,000 different attributes from psychographics and motivators to purchase influencers, values, and media usage patterns to define your audiences to an eerily accurate degree. Please reach out if you’re curious about hearing more!

ChappellRoberts is a strategic creative and performance driven agency. Founded in 1978, we’ve been providing branding, marketing and advertising strategy to clients ranging from Major League sports franchises, to global financial services and massive regional organizations.