In the niche world, adopt the culture of the niche

As the word of the new channels was creeping out into consumerland late last month, my 10-year-old son, perhaps pondering the specificity of some channels (two(!) horseracing channels, cleverly named The Racing Network 1 and Racing Network 2), said there should be a channel that was just breakdancing monkeys.

As the word of the new channels was creeping out into consumerland late last month, my 10-year-old son, perhaps pondering the specificity of some channels (two(!) horseracing channels, cleverly named The Racing Network 1 and Racing Network 2), said there should be a channel that was just breakdancing monkeys. He argued, convincingly – though I’m not as critical as the CRTC – that it would be very popular.

We began to riff on this proposed channel, skewing it to appeal to different demos through various monkey costume changes. Monkeys in business suits for the Bay St. set, F1 racing gear on Sunday morning, etc.

Which kind of defeats the point of niche channels for media buyers – trying to appeal to too many demos negates precision bombing.

An example of how targetted you can get (curiously also primate-related), was witnessed recently at a multiplex showing of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Every audience member at the first showing on the opening day (O.K., maybe there were 25 guys) except myself, was wearing those really big, really long, gravity-defying shorts that males of a certain mental age wear.

Beyond questioning the fashion I.Q. of devotees to the art (?) of Kevin Smith, one can draw from this example that the deeper you wade into niche/cult media avenues, the more homogenous the tastes of the group. It allows a very intimate dialogue for the right kind of marketer, IF they are willing to go down that road with the right message. And although the film is fairly far from the mainstream summer flicks – America’s Sweethearts, Rat Race – its respectable box office (number three on opening weekend) proves that niche is edging mass for reach.

This issue, the Maximizing Media special report looks at whether the new channels Canadians have just taken delivery of may finally shake up the traditional media buying assessment methodology and move things towards a more psychographics-driven model. Not only is it time to begin to assess these niche options for the added value the specificity of the audience merits, consider also that using the language and cultural cues valued by that group can add to that increased media weight.

It’s hard at the moment to get a handle on this (nine of the 38 new digital channels listed in the Globe Television Guide for Sept. 7 still had no programming announced), however, there should at least be consensus on how to weigh the options once the skeds get broken in.

This issue we also look at increasing marketer interest in tying in with licensed characters and how the choice and usage of these characters are evolving to break through clutter and play to the niches. (See ‘Animators pitching toons for ad work,’ p. 2.)

So, if you want to reach the Jay and Silent Bob demo, make sure you’re speaking their language. And if that’s not appropriate for the brand story (as in the case of most of the words Jay uses) and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon aren’t available, tie in with some of the related interests of the demo. They probably like Afroman, they’re Internet, comic, sci-fi and game freaks, and of course, we know what they’re wearing.

The psychographic-driven multiple-marketing-pocket approach ties in with where the gurus say it’s all heading. Call it CRM or any buzzy acronym you want but it boils down to reaching the consumer wherever he may be lurking – avoiding your phone calls, or ducking the rocks they’re lobbing from Burghardt’s column.

As John Hagel recently told Darwin magazine, ‘We are on the cusp of a major shift in branding.’ Hagel, chief strategy officer of Twelve Entrepreneuring in San Fran, says the brand promise is moving from an attribute-based model to a customercentric one, where the promise is ”I know you as an individual customer better than anyone else…trust me.”

And with the advent of personal-programming offerings such as TiVo, marketers will need to know consumers that intimately – right down to their shorts – since they may not be reachable in a network environment much longer.

P.S. The Primate segue in the Jay and Silent Bob film was not an

evolutionary crack about the audience – there was an actual orangutan

in the film, and he got the best lines, er, bits.

cheers, mm