Copywriting Course on Target Audience

Photograph by Catherine Acin

Writing a Hi-Fi Communication Brief: Profiling the Target Audience

Writing clear, concise and compelling copy always begins with clear, precise and insightful thinking. And that beginning is the Communication Brief. The writing of one leads to the establishment of the common ground upon which we and our target audience can strike a mutual respect for sharing and receiving story. It is the finding of this common ground that I will endeavour to demonstrate in this post.

Naturally, it all begins with the gathering of relevant data and information about the subject, the target audience and their contexts and distilling it all down to the key proposition (the subject) and profile (target audience). Now I’ve done enough classes with marketing and communications practitioners to come to the conclusion that writing a CommBrief is a highly under-developed area of expertise. The sorry numbers show me that approximately 84% of “communications professionals” see demographics as the start all and end all. Little wonder we’re all seen as “consumers” rather than human beings. Ex-advertising executive-come-film-producer-now-educator, David Puttnam (Midnight Express, Chariots of Fire and The Killing Fields) was already warning the advertising industry about this back in the 70’s.

Since his talk, I have always tried to see the human in the consumer. But even today, many CommBriefs begin and end with demographics only. 

Of course demographics is where you always start, but it only gives an outline of the target audience ‘s profile. 

To communicate effectively, you need to visualise your target audience sitting across the desk from you as you write (dialogue) to them. Demographics —post-code, employment, age, gender, ethnicity and education — only give us a census but not much, if any, insights.

Insight can only come from going deeper, into their psychographics. This is the next logical and critical step in the profiling procedure. It’s where we discover their hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations, anxieties … now we begin to see a much clearer picture of who we are talking to. 

Take one more step and you employ  the ten desires that drive us. This is when you see your target audience so clearly, you can actually see and hear their responses to every sentence you write.

Psychologist, Social Researcher and Writer, Hugh Mackay’s groundbreaking book, What Makes Us Tick: The Ten Desires That Drive Us enables us to complete a clear and present picture of the target audience we wish to engage. His work has already been covered in my post What are the hopes, fears and desires of your target audience? In this one, we will put it into practice.

Case Study #1 profiles a single target audience and Case Study #2 profiles a multi-target audience to test drive the process in a multi-target audience situation. 

Case Study #1: The Only Control We Have

Subject: Credit Card Insurance
Medium: Direct Mail letter
Target: Bank credit card holders


50/50 gender credit card customers of Australian-boutique banks such as Citibank and HSBC. Well-healed, affluent 40-something family bound. Average credit balance $5-10k. More often than not live beyond their bank balance whilst not generally reaching or exceeding their credit limit. This customer is responsible in ensuring their immediate financial obligations are met. They are also savvy and search for the best offer.


He/she lives for the material moment but is forward thinking enough to ensure some safety net. They are confident enough to live beyond their bank balance but know they need to secure their income in case something happens (illness, injury, redundancy etc). It’s a fine balancing act, and they are aware enough to know that they could be vulnerable to the unforeseen. They just need to be reminded occasionally.

The desire that drives him/her:

In this context, they have the desire for control. “Due to circumstances beyond our control” is a familiar announcement in his/her book. The global financial crisis is their stark reminder. The recklessness of certain mortgage brokers and money-market traders in an under-regulated economy has cast a fearful shadow over their daily “lifestyle” more so than ever. But even though we can never be in full control, this desire has increased in intensity as the rate of change increases. The greater the rate and scope of change, the more the idea of control becomes an obsession. And here’s a universal truth: the only thing we can control is our own behaviour.

The key proposition:

Our professional advice to all valued customers: the only thing you can control is your own behaviour.

Case Study #2: Their Common Ground

Subject: Solar Roads proposal
Medium: Print
Target Audience: A funding body made up of six


50/50 gender in the professional class; aged 40+ executive leaders in their field of expertise. They have made it onto the Foreign Policy’s top 100 thinkers of 2010’s global marketplace of ideas and the thinkers who make them.

Psychographics: (key characteristic of each)                    The desire that drives him/her:

1 Equality and inclusiveness matters                                   The desire to connect

2 Need to think much bigger                                                The desire for something to happen

3 Green technology is good for business                             The desire to be taken seriously

4 Break top-down approach and act from the grassroots     The desire to be taken seriously

5 Need to treat problems before they arise                           The desire for control

6 Need to be able to run an entire country

without oil or new science                                                   The desire for something to happen

The common ground for all six:

In this context, the desire for something to happen would be the most likely common-thread that brings them together as decision makers on the panel. To act! move! create! change! make a difference! surges their intent to “rage against the dying of the light”. And this is a time of action because it speaks louder than words. What makes this even more resounding for these six people is the fact that they are conscious of being a committee, and they are the first to declare committees as notorious for non-action. Which leads us to the second desire they share equally, and that is to be taken seriously. “We’re not the usual committee suspects”. We want you to be absolutely clear that your idea must match, if not rise above, our size of thinking on this matter. We don’t just want something to happen, we want ingenuity to happen. If you’re idea is seriously breakthrough, then we’ll put our money where your mouth is.

The key proposition:

All the highways, freeways and carparks in the world can become power stations with solar road panels.

If you’re serious about communicating with genuine empathy and respect for your target audience, your third step is to consult Hugh Mackay’s What Makes Us Tick? The Ten Desires That Drive Us.

It’s important to make the first two steps (1) demographics and (2) psychographics. These will provide you with the knowledge and insight you need to choose the right desire(s) without stereotyping.

Demographics > Psychographics > Ten Desires: done in this order and your CommBrief with be Hi-Fi enough to turn any consumer into a human being again.

Meanwhile, my online copywriting course’s latest timetable is up and running and ready to take your booking now.

Originally posted 2021-06-08 06:15:18.

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