It may seem obvious that setting a goal for an audience is the first step in advertising but it isn’t. An advertiser may convey a goal, and indeed it is important to the advertiser, however it will lessen the success of the engagement message if that is all that drives it. It happens.

Product knowledge is the first step in creating a successful engagement message. It is very important to know a product’s features, advantages and benefits and it doesn’t matter if the product is a service, item or organization.

The second step is knowledge of the audience. “Everyone” isn’t a target audience unless you like duck hunting blindfolded with blanks. Who does the product fit is an excellent question to answer with as much detail as possible.

The third step is the goal. In other words, what should the target market do upon receiving the engagement message? A goal will be too complicated if it cannot be summarized in one sentence.

Why then, does the goal not come first?

The more mundane discussions of product knowledge, audience definition and goal setting are often overlooked or not given as much importance. It’s either more fun to come up with the exciting square peg and try to bash it into a round hole or the desire to please the advertiser dominates the engagement message.

For instance, if a client wants to sell product, then that must be the goal and that, obviously, must be the primary goal. It isn’t because the fixation can skew the engagement message in the wrong direction. The goal may be to sell product but it will not be a successful without the answers to what is being sold, to whom is it being sold to and why it is useful or important to the audience.

That is why it is so important to know product and target audience before defining the goal. If the goal comes first, then it is only a partial goal.

For example, a brand is currently advertising a food product as second best next to homemade. Sure, the comparison is made that the product is almost as good as homemade but why position a product as second best when the competition is marketing their product as the best. This is where, perhaps, the advertiser’s goal was to come up with a different looking ad than the competition’s almost as good as homemade message. The goal was achieved but at the cost of presenting the product as a second choice not a first choice.

Another example is a major electronics retailer advertising itself as the place for the computer savvy. Its TV commercial shows their employee snapping computer ram into a motherboard and the logo lights up. Hurray the problem is solved and everything is great except for the fact that the motherboard clearly has no processor or video card. Why would a retailer market themselves as an expert while making such an amateur mistake? The engagement message was, perhaps, created without properly researching the product and target market. The target audience, is going to #fail them on that.

Misguided marketing messages result in failed marketing messages no matter how simple or complex.

It’s so important to write a clear goal that is rooted in product and audience knowledge for any engagement message. That simple sentence will correctly drive the engagement message whatever the concept is.

Product. Audience. Goal. Engagement. Are we on the same page now?