What the Backstory for Your Target Audience?

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I was talking with a client today about who their target audience was. And while we know what the demographic information was, we don’t often consider the backstory — but the backstory is so critical and necessary to really understanding who your target audience really is. To develop the backstory, we simply start pulling the thread of the story by getting super inquisitive about the target audience.

photo credit ECohen via Flickr
photo credit ECohen via Flickr
  • Who is your best client, male or female? – female.
  • How old is she? – 37 years old.
  • What’s her name? –  we’ll call her Mary.
  • What’s she look like? – Happy, content. About 5’6″, dimples
  • Did Mary go to college? – Yes.
  • Does she have a degree? – Yes a Masters.
  • Does she work? – Yes, a professional-type job, she’s a dentist.
  • Is Mary married? – Yes, to John.
  • How about John, did he go to college? – Yes, got a Bachelors.
  • What kind of job does John have? – a professional/white collar job.
  • How about kids, does Mary have kids? – yes one, a little girl.
  • How old are they? – Samantha’s just 1 year old.
  • What does Mary do when she’s not at work? – she spends time working on her home, she likes it to be beautiful, but not fussy. She’s pretty pragmatic about things, she’d like to leave the world a better place for Samantha, but she’s also knows she’s short on time and has to make choices about which battles to fight.
  • What else does Mary like to do? – she enjoys concerts, and an occasional trip to the theater. Mostly she likes watching Samantha experience the world for the first time.
  • How about her marriage, is it happy? – yes, quite. Although both Mary & John are so busy with their jobs and Samantha that they don’t often get to spend time with each other, they’re looking forward to being able to spend more time in the future.

You see where this is going…we’re making Mary REAL — and by extension, we’re making John and Samantha real too. And all we’re doing is getting really interested in who one of our target audience members might be.  Once we have a better understanding of who Mary is, we can begin to ask the big-money questions:

  • So if Mary could walk into your store today, what would she like to see there?
  • What would she buy?
  • What would she miss?
  • What would Mary love?
  • What would Mary hate?
  • What doesn’t Mary have an interest (or time) for?
  • What would make Mary’s day?

Really putting yourself into Mary’s shoes will help you to identify those elements that you can modify to bring your brand experience closer to alignment with Mary’s needs. It also makes it a lot easier to consider new products (would Mary buy this?). And to consider new marketing strategies (Would Mary care about this?)

Invest the time to create a backstory for a member of your target audience. Once you have yours, ask your busines partner(s) to do the same. Understanding how differently (or the same) each of you see the target audience will help you to adjust your strategies to really intersect your target. (It also helps to make sure you’re working toward the same goal).


Tisha Oehmen

Tisha Oehmen is a professional brand strategist and a leader in the branding field. She was recently named a member of the Global Guru’s Top 30 Brand Gurus. She is also the co-founder of Oregon-based Paradux Media Group and the best-selling author of the book, Finding Brand: The Brand Book Tutorial.

Possessing expertise in both front- and back-office operations, Tisha conceptualizes, develops, and implements initiatives to foster brand effectiveness like no other. With over 15 years of experience in branding and marketing, Tisha has successfully led large financial institutions and health care companies down the path of renaming their business.

Where Tisha really shines is in the work that isn’t done. Sometimes a name change for a business isn’t in their best interest and after meeting with Tisha, they are able to find the true value and equity that has always been in their brand. Tisha has a special knack of being able to communicate the value so that the CEO/Business owner can see its luster and then with a little polishing, make it shine company wide.

Tisha is best known for developing long lasting branding campaigns that speak to the heart of the business, the brand, and the community. True brand, no matter how big or small, has longevity. Creating branding campaigns that have longevity, that have a laser-like focus, is where Tisha thrives.

Tisha received her M.B.A. from the University of Oregon, from where she also earned a B.A. in Political Science. She enjoyed a distinguished academic career punctuated by enthusiastic and successful participation in competitive speaking events, and holds numerous awards for her skill in public speaking. Tisha is widely recognized for her ability to capture an audience’s attention with her straightforward and engaging speaking style.

When not working, she enjoys golfing, baking, reading, and hiking with her partner, Mike, and their two dogs, Chloe and Jackson. She’s also an active member of Rotary International, the Chamber of Commerce, and is a very proud supporter of the Oregon Ducks. Tisha lives in Eagle Point, Oregon.

Reader Interactions


  1. Barbara says

    Wow, I never thought about this. Thank you for posting this. I really just need this idea. I find it very useful and very informative. Keep it up!

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