Write Brained: Audience Profiling isn’t for Sissies

Posted by on Jun 8, 2012 in Audience Profiling, Blog, Write Brained | 3 comments

Write Brained: Audience Profiling isn’t for Sissies

As a copywriter, the actual “writing” portion of your job can actually be the easier portion. If you are writing marketing copy, it should be. Most of us are comfortable with our writing prowess. Most of us have studied it, whether through an established university or through our own thirst for knowledge. If we haven’t studied it, we’ve at least practiced it for long enough that we’re pretty confident in our skills. If writing excellent copy was only about the writing itself, we would have it made!

But it’s not. Your writing isn’t nearly as important as who you are writing it for.

All too often, people forget the absolute most crucial part of writing: their audience. For those of us with a professional writing education, we all remember our professors’ mantra: what your audience gets out of your writing is more important than what you meant them to get. If they don’t come to the conclusion you wanted them to, it’s your fault.

The audience is always right; even more so in copywriting than any other format. Think about it this way. If you’re a poet, your audience misinterpreting your meaning manifests itself as a debate (probably heated) about what your poem was about. If you’re a copywriter, audience misinterpretation leads to only one thing: no one buys the products or services you are trying to market. That’s a pretty hefty repercussion, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, many copywriters don’t take their audiences nearly as seriously as they should. They collect the basics: generic demographics, location, and various other details readily available in any google search. With that under their belts, they start writing. Unfortunately, this ignores some major elements that should not be overlooked.

These are just a few things copywriters should do to truly understand their audience.

Read what he reads.
An excellent way to understand your target audience is to read the same magazines, newspapers, blogs, and books he does. At the very least, know what they are and be able to scan the text for long enough to get the concept. Doing this has two very specific, very valuable benefits. One, you will get a glimpse of the tone and style of writing they prefer to digest, and two, you will see how other companies are marketing to this very same audience. For example, potential clients who read The Wall Street Journal will be interested in very different topics and respond to very different advertisements than will an audience that devoutly devours Cosmopolitan.

Go where he goes.
From physical locations to cyber ones, knowing your client’s outside interests is a greatly valuable asset to copywriters. You will get an idea how they expect to be treated: compare an audience who frequents Red Robin to one that would rather sit down at an expensive steakhouse. This can also give you insight to his hobbies. Is he a golfer? Does he hit the gym? Also, where does he shop? Knowing these little details can also tell you a lot about the person’s motivations. Additionally, this will also give you an idea what kind of content you should write for him. If he spends most of his time online, you could be writing very different copy than an audience with their faces between the cover of a magazine.

Feel how he feels.
Human beings are emotionally-based creatures. Whether we realize it or not, whether we pride ourselves on being logical and rational, most purchasing decisions are actually based on our emotional reaction. In copywriting, experiencing how your audience is marketed to or what kind of service he expects to receive is only half the battle. To truly understand who he is and why he is motivated by these things, you have to put yourself inside his head and understand how these things actually make him feel. Why does he respond to advertisement A better than advertisement B? Why was this restaurant favorable over another of the same cuisine and comparable food quality? Don’t just know what motivates him; understand why.

And as this blog post begins to get unnecessarily long, you may have started to realize that customer profiling isn’t easy. It can takes hours upon hours of research before you truly know your audience, and even then you need to constantly check back to make sure it hasn’t changed. Audience profiling is a massive topic with literally thousands of different avenues to discuss, and we’ve barely scraped the surface. Be sure to check back with us, and meanwhile, get to know your market!


  1. Great advice!

  2. Thank you for addressing the need to know what emotions drive your market. This is essential, and often forgotten, information for copywriters. One way to find out what emotions fuel your market is to observe their reaction to breaking news. Great post.

    • Ah, that’s a really good idea I hadn’t considered. I’ll add that to my repertoire when creating my audience profile. That also leads to another idea–which news stations and specials they watch.

      Thanks for the comment, Cindi!

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