Villing & Company

Vampires vs. Zombies: The Importance of Targeted Marketing

Zombies, werewolves and vampires are everywhere. The CDC encourages citizens to prepare for natural or other disasters through a Zombie Preparedness campaign. If you want to publish a bestseller or get a new show picked up, having a supernatural theme certainly seems to increase your odds of success. Product categories that may be naturally uninspired, such as hardware, can boost excitement by marketing items as tools to battle the undead. In this vein, I saw a recent episode of Spike TV's Deadliest Warrior that pitted vampires against zombies. If you're not familiar with the series, the concept is a panel of military, medical and analytical experts who analyze the strengths and weaknesses of two legendary types of warriors, more typically along the lines of ninjas or Green Berets, to determine which would prevail in an ultimate showdown.

The initial question may be why I was watching DW: Vampires vs. Zombies. The answer to this is simple: as the only female in my household, I'm frequently outvoted for control of the remote. The next, and more important question is what this has to do with marketing beyond the fact that the producers were clever enough to utilize the popular undead as a show topic. Though I'm sure the rest of my family did not view the program from this angle, the outlined strengths and weaknesses of the two competitors illustrate how a targeted marketing campaign achieves more with less.

The first consideration in planning a campaign is almost always budget. How much do I have to work with and how can I use these dollars most effectively? Deadliest Warrior established, due to overall undead population, the battle would involve 189 zombies and 3 vampires. So the zombies have a much larger initial budget and what would seem to be a huge advantage. Of course, budget is relative to many things, such as market size, campaign length and mediums involved. We're assuming an even playing field for these elements. If your direct competitor had an advantage of more than 60 to 1 in dollars to spend while attempting to achieve the same goal, how would you combat this?

As an initial tactic, the vampires chose to place their 3 warriors in key positions and take on the zombies that eventually wandered in that direction. I see this as a zoned cable TV buy or a direct mail program (traditional or electronic) with very specific geographic and demographic qualifications. You need to speak directly and clearly to who you have identified as your target market and capture their attention before the competition's scattered messaging begins to reach them. The zombies relied on sheer numbers. They sent a group here and a group there and hoped to engage the vampires when they could find them.

Still, 60 to 1 is a huge numbers advantage. The zombies certainly made some headway and were heard by many. However, another strength the vampires have is their attack strategy. While zombies primarily stagger along and hope to grasp a victim, vampires strike swiftly with a well aimed death blow. This represents your campaign message. What are you trying to say to your identified audience? The temptation to say too much is always there. If you have a great product and fail to practice restraint, an ad can quickly turn into a boring litany of product benefits. Keep your message specific and strong and include a clear call to action.

As the battle wound down, both sides had seen some success and though the vampires had managed to eliminate an amazing number of zombies, the victor was not yet certain.  To win the battle, the vampires took advantage of another powerful weapon: teamwork. Fighting together and attacking the competition from multiple sides, the vampires defeated the remaining zombies. This illustrates the effectiveness of an integrated message. Elements that work together to deliver a consistent message throughout the duration of your campaign are much more powerful than disjointed or unfocused efforts.

In the end, the vampires prevailed because they focused their efforts, utilized strong tactics and worked together. Or to summarize my marketing parallel: they maximized the impact of their budget by consistently delivering an effective message to a targeted audience. Would a budgetary advantage of 60 to 1 be this easily overcome? Perhaps not. But in the spirit of Halloween, I thought this was a timely illustration of how to prepare for a marketing battle.

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