The Message-to-Market Match (S1-E003-02)

Written by PortMA

The Message-to-Market Match (S1-E003-02)

In our LAST POST, we shared a process that we’ve been using here at PortMA for assuring quality in the data. Now I’d like to talk about the Message-to-Market Match.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Brands have target consumers they are trying to reach. Sometimes, they’re looking to expand their presence in a particular niche. Other times, there are certain types of people brands want to target who they believe are more likely to buy their product/service. Or maybe, there are segments within their current buying population that would increase consumption and buy more if they just had the right information.

Developing the Message

There’s always a target market where there’s a message that’s been built. That message is a way to describe the value proposition of the brand that is believed to speak to this particular consumer for very specific reasons. We call that the Message-to-Market Match. In general, this is the most important theory and idea in marketing.

When we’re analyzing data information that defines the outcome of marketing, we’re dealing with how well the right type of message was communicated to the right type of consumer. When marketing is not working it’s because the message is off.

The message is developed when you have an understanding of what the consumer values – how they think about and perceive the problem that the brand solves. That is often developed through research. It has to do with ascertaining the values, habits, attitudes, and lifestyle and how the brand aligns with all of that. How well your marketing communicates that to the right kind of people will get to the heart of understanding your data. You can then infer whether or not the marketing is working and why.

Identifying the Market

In many cases, the match is off and you’re reaching the wrong kind of consumer. You need to manage that with experiential marketing. Most marketing channels have it a lot easier than experiential does. Most have a very mature established process for aligning the media buy with the target market. If you’re talking about radio, TV, or magazines, you have different radio stations, TV channels, magazine subscriber bases.

All of those are defining particular types of consumers that are attracted to the content being pushed out through those channels. Howard Stern is going to appeal to a different demographic profile than NPR. Spike TV has a very different demographic than the Hallmark Channel. Teen Magazine is going to have a different subscriber base than National Geographic.

Match Your Consumers in the Market

That’s not 100% true. There’s going to be overlap in all those examples. But, more often than not, there are going to be some clear defined consumer groups that are attracted to each of those channels. We have to find the consumers we’re trying to target and create the Message-to-Market match. Except it’s not as laid out for us. The only tool we have is our venues, our venue selection, and the routing schedule.

We’ll look at the routing schedules and the venues in different types of consumer destinations. We then use that to help ascertain the kind of people that are more likely to be there. State fairs are going to have more families. The Hot Rod Association is going to have more of the 18 to 24-year-old demographic. Air shows are going to have an older male crowd. Home shows are going to have new home buyers, and sometimes it’s very obvious and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the lines are much more blurred within the experiential world.

(You can listen to the full podcast episode below.)

Venue Impact in the Market

The most important thing to remember is that when it comes to your data analysis (and your attempts to find insight) that you’re always including the venue – the place in which the activation occurred – and you’re holding that as a variable that you can then use to segment your outcomes. You might segment sales, hand sales, signups, purchase intention, or advocacy. This is a key component of your Message-to-Market Match.

Whatever measures you’re using as your impact variable, you want to make sure you segment that by venue type across your mobile tour. That’s where you’re going to see a lot of insight. If you can find certain venues that are generating a much stronger impact than others, that’s actionable. You can then use that as the roadmap of what to do in the future.

Always include the venue – the place where the activation occurred – as a variable that you can use to segment your outcomes.

We were at an outdoor music venue with a wide variety of acts and bands performing over the sponsorship period. Our client, the sponsor of this venue, was there regardless of the performers. We also saw a lot of variation in signups based on the activation schedule.

When we started looking very carefully at the different bands, we started to see obvious connections that the CCR tribute band had a very different demographic profile than the Jonas Brothers. There were many different types of consumer profiles at the venue based on the band, and that resulted in different levels of impact.

When we were able to deconstruct that and identify the trends – the kinds of bands that are associated with the greatest return and those that aren’t – we were able to instruct the brand and the agency on how to make the most of their activation schedule.

The sponsors had to have a consistent presence, but there were times when they could minimize it and there were times when they could plus it up. They had flexibility. By doing that strategically – based on the way they linked the venue to the crowd and to the outcomes – they were able to get much more value out of the sponsorship.

ROI for Different Markets

A company in the travel services industry was activating at airports, conferences, and office parks. The overall plan was to garner signups and travel through this service. The overall ROI was uniquely high. Across all venue types, ROI was around 600%. That’s a fantastic return on investment in any scenario, especially in experiential marketing.

ROI by Venue Type

Overall: 600%

Airports: 1519%

Conferences: 616%

Office Parks: 74%

When we segmented that ROI by airports, conferences, and office parks, we saw a wide variation. We saw over a thousand point difference. At airports, which were incredibly expensive due to security, they saw the ROI up at 1519%. Conferences saw a 616% return on investment, still outrageously strong but almost 1/3 of what they were seeing at airports. At office parks (still great opportunities for engagement) the ROI was only 74%. They were actually losing money at the office parks while they were getting > 1500% return at airports.

That variation was extreme; it came from including venue type as a variable in all of the data analysis and segmenting the ROI by those different venues. It became very clear that the target consumer was off at the office parks, whereas the target consumer was approaching 100%. That resulted in this radical difference in ROI.

Applying the Message-to-Market Match

The point is to reinforce the idea to always make sure that venue type is a part of all of your activations. It should be a part of all your measurement. If there are variations in what’s happening at that venue, you want to record that so that you have those as potential independent variables when you’re trying to understand the variation of effect.

It’s so important that we keep in mind the Message-to-Market Match when marketing is working really well; the message in the market is in alignment. When it’s not working well, they’re out of alignment. As experiential marketers, our primary tool to understand market match has to do with the venues we choose and the destinations of consumers.

Further Reading

Additional Resources


  • Experiential Measurement Blueprint
  • Event Impression Calculator
  • Experiential ROI Benchmarking Reports
  • Event Measurement Video Tutorials
Click for Additional Resources