This is a pretty short read but pretty interesting all the same. Seth Godin is a famous marketer, blogger, author who writes mostly about marketing and how things are changing. His other books are pretty interesting too (Tribes, Purple Cow). In We are all weird, Godin explains how the market has always focused on mass. Mass marketing, mass production, mass media etc. Everything was catered to the normal. By making something the norm, you were covering your bases. Upon closer inspection though, there is no such thing as normal. As we get richer and have more choice, we keep moving further from the norm and maker ever weirder choices.
It appealed to my inner economist. I did after all dedicate 3 years of my life to studying economics. The book essentially looks at bell curves, and explains how the traditional bell curve is becoming increasingly flat meaning it is much harder to target a large portion of it. In the 60s and 70s for example, there were a handful of TV channels. You just put a tonne of ads up and hey presto – you have a super brand. In the 80s and early 90s this got trickier as there were a lot more channels, and magazines etc but it was still about big media buys. Now though, with 1000s of TV channels, and of course the big one – the internet, it is impossible to target the masses easily.
The lesson however is not that you need to just cater to a niche market. It is more than you have you target your message to those you are speaking to. A product can appeal to the masses but the way it is communicated needs to be sensitive to the channel which is being used. I guess it is like when your firing off job applications. The response rate is always better when you write individual cover letters as opposed to the one size fits all approach.