Inspirational Vs. Aspirational Marketing: How Do You Balance Short- and Long-Term Goals?

  • by April 12, 2018

As marketers, we have to constantly balance the oft-contradictory goals of short-term revenue growth and long-term business strategy. When designing an audience strategy, this often boils down to an apparent decision between focusing on a brand’s inspirational audience and its aspirational audience.  

What does that mean? First, you likely have current customers you want to keep, along with near-term prospects you want to attract. That’s your inspirational audience.

Your inspirational audience needs to be inspired with relevant messaging. They can move from consideration to purchase quickly if you reach them with the right message at the right time.

On the other hand, your business also probably has an idealized profile of a target long-term customer who looks different than your current customers.

Simply put, that aspirational audience is your dream customer of the future. Consider Matthew McConaughey driving a Lincoln. The average age of a current Lincoln owner is 63 years old, while McConaughey is 48. Although he doesn’t look like a current customer, McConaughey is the customer Lincoln wants to reach over time: younger, wealthier, and interested in a high-end, high-performance vehicle. Through its advertising, Lincoln is trying to change the audience’s perception of who drives its cars.



Aspirational audiences shift your demographic target to better match your long-term business strategy. When Apple released its iconic 1984 ad, it successfully helped it shift from being a niche brand for techies to a mainstream brand. Other “aspirational” shifts might involve a shift in age range, genders, incomes, or lifestyles. 

Consider Tom Brady and Ugg boots. My husband loves Brady, but he’s not a fan of twin-faced sheepskin and fleece boots. Hiring Brady helps Ugg reach that aspirational male customer and expand beyond its traditional base of women and children. 

Your aspirational audience is not measured by sales. Simply catching their eyeballs is the goal. However, success in reaching your inspirational audience can be measured primarily on sales impact, as that drives your current revenue and earnings.

For many businesses, reaching both inspirational and aspirational audiences is vital to success, but marketing execution often fails to support that business strategy, because most marketers plan campaigns, build audiences, and create media plans focused on only one of these audiences. Worse, metrics for success are usually improperly aligned with their audience objectives.

By comparison, successful marketers constantly play both the long and short game. Tactically, they don’t put their aspirational audiences in the TV-only bucket, and they don’t limit their inspirational audiences to digital in-market prospecting.

What they do is “centralized audience planning,” a process that lays out all target audiences, uses data to define and create each one, and aligns the right metrics to the right objective for each audience.

The most critical step is getting all stakeholders involved, including your brand, digital, creative, account planning, media, and analytics teams from both brand and agency. That creates an “audience-first” environment and gives everyone the insights needed to do their jobs.  

When a brand moves to centralized audience planning, bad habits get broken, new ideas are generated, old processes fall by the wayside, and more effective audience strategies are deployed.

Next time you need to decide between your aspirational or inspirational audience, choose both.

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