Wanamaker, an 1890s marketing pioneer, made that statement in a time when less sophisticated research methods existed, but also when the stakes were much lower.
Targeting the correct audience plays an even bigger role in society today as organizations have to compete amongst the clamor of every other TV spot and web advertisement.
The Super Bowl is renowned for having the most clever commercials of the entire year because 111 million people tune in. But if you’re selling panic buttons for the elderly, the majority of those 111 million people will tune your message out. If you want to advertise to children, but your commercials appear during the 6 o’clock news, you won’t reach your intended audience.
Advertising is not about reaching the largest number of people possible. It’s about reaching the right people.
Obstinate audience theory
Obviously you have to choose the correct time and channels to communicate with the right audience, but your messages must be tailor-made to appeal to them. What are your target audience’s self interests? What makes them tick?
According to the obstinate audience theory, the audience actively selects which messages to pay attention to and which messages to ignore. You may reach them, but whether it goes in one ear and out the other is another deal.
You cannot appeal to everyone, so figure out who you do want to appeal to, plan to target the right audience and implement your plan.