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Why you should avoid the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach in marketing

Just like how a one-size-fits-all approach can cause accidents for pilots in cockpit design, a blanket approach to advertising for consumers can quickly backfire. A recent article in Marketing Week reveals that just like how there is no average size for pilots, there is no average consumer- marketers must diversify their strategies in order to achieve the behavioural changes they desire.

Author Richard Shotton recalls a problem the United States Air Force faced in the 1940s when they decided to redesign cockpits, which pilots ultimately outgrew. The Air Force then attempted to find an average size to fit the majority of their pilots, however faced a setback when they discovered there was no such thing as an ‘average size.’ Working to find a solution, they switched their approach to designing adjustable seats and pedals to accommodate people of different sizes. This approach helped the Air Force achieve their goals of decreasing the number of plane crashes.

This same approach of customisation- rather than applying mainstream advertising to the ‘average’ consumer- can have positive effects for marketers as well. A Behavioural Insights Team, as described by Shotton, conducted an experiment to measure what messages would produce behaviour changes related to tax payments.

The Behavioural Insights Team tested different messages related to tax payments with various groups, measuring respondents’ answers to the messages produced. The team found the message declaring “most people pay their taxes on time” led to a 15% increase in the number of people who paid on time. However, in another group, the same message resulted in a 25% lower tax collection rate for the top 5% of debtors. In another study, messages on the repercussions of late taxes dramatically increased payment rates among debtors.

While a ‘one size fits all’ approach may incur less costs, personalised strategies can offer greater benefits to marketers, particularly in today’s diverse consumer market.