Building an Advertising Strategy

What is an advertising strategy? Basically, it is the formulation of a message that communicates to the market the benefits or problem solution characteristics of the product or service. Well, maybe that's not "basically." But what you are trying to convey through your advertising and state in your strategy is what your store offers to meet the consumer's need; how your product has more beneficial characteristics than the competition's; and what the beneficial characteristics are.

In the previous two articles, we addressed the two areas that precede formulation of the advertising strategy: the collection of data through market surveys [CG #5], leading to the strategic planning process; and the creation of a working operational market strategy [CG #6] and the implementation of the strategy. The advertising strategy is a direct result of the market strategy. The market strategy focuses on the improvement of operations and the positioning of the storefront, while the advertising strategy concentrates on reaching out to the marketplace and conveying what the market strategy has accomplished internally.

The first step in formulating an advertising strategy is to determine the product or service you have to offer to the marketplace and the objective of the store. For an example, we'll use an imaginary store named Third World that is located in an urban area.

Define Product or Service: Third World is a whole foods store servicing the metropolitan area with the finest in fresh foods, including produce, dairy, cheeses, freshly prepared foods, coffees and teas. The store also carries a large assortment of bulk foods, herbs, vitamins, body care products and natural food groceries.

In a simple paragraph, the product or service being offered by the store has been clearly defined; the next step is to state the foremost objective of the storefront.

The objective of Third World is to service its customers with the highest quality foodstuffs and to educate the consumer on the benefits of the products offered and their contribution to a healthy lifestyle.

The storefront may have many objectives, but it is important to concentrate on what you consider to be the primary one. This could be a rewording or a larger version of your mission statement, included in your strategic plan.

The next step is to define what your target markets are. Once again, this should be determined by the results of your market surveys.

Target Markets: Third World has the fortunate distinction of being located in a downtown area that is close to a university and office buildings, and is also surrounded by its own residential area. There are four distinct markets targeted as Third World customers. Each market has its own distinct buying patterns, demographics, and psychographics. Therefore, each market must have a different advertising approach and product mix. But at the same time, the Third World "message" must be consistent in each advertising group.

The four targeted groups are:

  1. university students;
  2. residential neighborhood;
  3. office workers;
  4. natural food community.

This store is unusual in that it serves four distinct markets; your store may service one or two, or could also have as many as four. Now that the market has been defined, the actual strategy for each market is ready to take form. Each market has to be defined for its demographic characteristics, its psychographic characteristics, and the products to be targeted for each group.

Demographic Characteristics:

  • University students-targeted group #1
  • Age: 18-26 Sex: mixed
  • Race: mixed Marital status: single
  • Income level: low, 5-15,000
  • Percent of meals at home: 30 percent

Psychographic Characteristics:

Type A: undergraduate, young, single, physically active lifestyle, health conscious, eat on the go.

Type B: graduate student, middle 20s, single or married, physically active, more settled, apt to eat at home more, holding down expenses.

Type C: employees of university, middle 30s to SOs, large income, educated, health conscious, physically active, large percent of meals at home.

By breaking down further the targeted group by psychographic characteristics, we can better segment the market and devise a strategy for each. Next is to define the targeted product per psychographic group.

Targeted Products:

Type A: vitamins, cosmetics, prepared foods, quick energy foods, bulk cereals, juice, yogurt.

Type B: basic whole foods -- produce, cheeses, dairy, bulk, juices, essential vitamins, breads.

Type C: produce, esoteric cheeses, gourmet grocery, fresh breads, prepared deli items, coffees, ice creams, essential and esoteric vitamin programs.

The next step is to identify the media that we will use to reach these demographic groups.

Targeted Media:

  • university newspapers;
  • nutrition tips show on university radio;
  • handouts, bag stuffers.

Other Ad Possibilities:

  • flyer in student orientation packet;
  • small ads in other university publications;
  • co-sponsorship of university-centered events;
  • further affiliation with university radio station.

(Couponing should be included in all printed advertising.)

That completes the strategy for one of the targeted groups. Let's give one more example, using Targeted Group #2: neighborhood residential.


  • Age: 25-60
  • Sex: mixed
  • Race: large percentage black
  • Marital status: mixed
  • Income level: lower to upper


Type A: family, black, lower income, physically inactive, large percentage of meals at home, shops neighborhood.

Type B: single professional, black or white, lower/upper income level, fair percentage of meals at home, physically active, health conscious, entertains frequently.

Type C: retired, single, fixed income, black, physically inactive, large percentage of meals at home, shops neighborhood.

Targeted Products:

Type A: bulk basic foods, produce, basic cheeses, herbs, essential vitamins, bulk oils, honey.

Type B: prepared deli foods, produce, cheeses, vitamins, cosmetics.

Type C: basic bulk, produce, inexpensive dietary supplements.

Targeted Media:

  • neighborhood paper;
  • city paper;
  • handouts and bag stuffers;
  • public service announcements or community support programs.

The Third World neighborhood is a neighborhood in transition -- it must be advertised that way. Breaking the targeted groups into distinct psychographic groups will serve that purpose.

For Third World to be successful in becoming the neighborhood grocery store, it is essential that the store become involved in the workings of the community. Sponsoring or co-sponsoring events such as a clean-up campaign or a nutritional senior outreach, for example, will create a bond between the community and the store. In the neighborhood market segment, this approach to advertising is of much greater importance than the chosen media.

As you can see, formulating an advertising strategy is much more complex than picking a newspaper to advertise with and some products to advertise. It involves breaking your markets down to the most finite groups, identifying their needs, and the solution characteristics that your store offers.

The next step in advertising is taking your strategy and developing a budget for it. This will be the topic of my next article.

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