The Difference Between a Target Market & Target Audience

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The terms target market and target audience are interrelated, but they are not interchangeable. A company's target market may also be its target audience for various marketing communications, but this is not always the case. Knowing the difference can help decision-makers strengthen their organization's overall marketing strategy and develop more effective marketing communications.

Target Market Basics

Marketing experts Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong define target market as a set of individuals sharing common needs or characteristics that the company decides to serve. These individuals are usually the end users of a product. A cloth diaper manufacturer's target market may be environmentally minded new mothers.

Target Audience Basics

Advertising specialist Tom Duncan defines target audience as "a group that has significant potential to respond positively to a brand message." The key here is the word message.; Effective marketing communications, or messages, each target a particular kind of reader or viewer. These individuals make up the message's target audience. The target audience for a company newsletter may be employees. The cloth diaper company mentioned in the previous section may create an advertisement in Spanish with a target audience of Latino mothers in mind.


Target markets impact an organization's overall marketing strategy. Target audiences are only associated with a specific message. Target markets are usually made up of the end user of a product or service. Depending upon the type of message in question, the target audience may be made up of company employees, society as a whole, media officials, or a variety of other groups.

When Target Market Equals Target Audience

Many times the target audience for a marketing communication is the same group identified in the target market. An energy drink maker may select college students as their primary target market. With this target in mind company executives may want to print ads in college newspapers. The target audience for these ads would be college students which are also the company's target market.

Separate Targets

Say the target market for XYZ cologne is affluent young men, 24-35 years of age. Now say that market research indicates that a large number of these men do not buy cologne and instead wear what their girlfriends and wives pick up for them. It may be wise for XYZ cologne to launch an ad campaign targeting not at the men who will ultimately use the product, but their significant others. Women aged 18-30 would be a logical target audience for the ad campaign. As such it would make more sense to run advertisements in women's magazines rather than the men's health publications.


  • "Principles of Marketing Ninth Edition" ; Philip Kotler, Gary Armstrong; 2001
  • "Principles of Advertising and IMC Second Edition"; Tom Duncan; 2005

About the Author

Erica Tambien began writing professionally in 1999. She is a freelance writer and communications consultant living in Reno, Nev. Her work has since appeared on various websites and for KOLO-TV. She holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration with an emphasis in marketing from the University of Nevada-Reno.

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