When identifying your target audience, "a whole city" can seem overwhelming. But if you're marketing a city, this often seems like the case. You might want to reach everyone — the multi-generational local residents; the growing small businesses looking to open up shop; and the young professionals from the "big city" who you want to lure back home. When this is the case, it can be tricky to narrow your target audience.
The truth is, with an audience as broad as a whole city, your brand, campaign, or design is not going to be wholeheartedly beloved by 100% of the audience, 100% of the time. And that's okay. To get even close to 100% acceptance, your product would likely have to be a watered-down, beige version of what it could be — and we don't like watered-down, nor do we like beige.
So, when the whole city is your stage and the entire population is your audience, how can you gain authentic buy-in from the people who matter, without losing sight of the broader population? Here are a few tips we've picked up along the way:
Go there and do your research.
First, go there! Walk the streets. Taste the food. Read the books. See the audience. Be the audience. Especially when you're providing an outsider's perspective, it's critical to do the research about the city and its population for yourself, hands-on. It's also helpful to peek around their community social media groups or subreddits.
Survey your target audience.
Putting in the time to conduct formal surveys or focus groups with actual locals is the most effective way to reach them. This will likely result in piles (we mean piles) of data, but it provides a wealth of information. You'll learn what residents actually want to see — and equally important, you'll start to see segments within this audience come to surface that can help you narrow your focus when shaping your marketing materials later on.
Remain cognizant of your preconceived notions, and avoid them.
A city's audience is nuanced. It is multi-dimensional. It is never just one note. While it is helpful to illustrate a sample buyer persona, there is a fine line between audience targeting and stereotyping. Across all cities, there is no one-size-fits-all type of audience member. Every population contains multitudes, has outliers, and will surprise you. The key is remaining aware of these different personas, while creating a marketing product with potential to unite them all under shared community pride. (We think this VisitSingapore ad is a prime example of that.)
Whether you're coming from an outsider's perspective or are a resident yourself, it is important to steer clear of what you think a certain city's audience would want and, instead, deliver what they actually want based on their own input. Because, when marketing for a city, your local authenticity determines your success.