Outcomes often extend beyond what was intended, or expected. They underscorethe inexact nature of targeted communications and marketing, and a lack ofunderstanding and specificity of primary audiences.

In an increasing number of instances the size, worth and responsiveness ofsecondary and tertiary target markets exceed those which have been identified,isolated, analysed and focused upon as probable and preferred customers andclients.

The allocation and deployment of scarce resources, to reach out, connect withand engage all appropriate cohorts is a perplexing conundrum for businessowners, managers and service providers.

Prospect-leakages are common and profound, impacting on and compromisingeffectiveness, efficiency and productivity. It is a recurring cost borne bymost commerce. It provides explanations, in part, for the unattainable goal ofmaximising sales, market-share and profits. Moreover, it provides currency,understanding and a differing measure of rationality for optimisingendeavours.

The current global digital economy consumers – corporate sector andindividuals – tend to be more assertive and active than in the past. Previousstrategies, which were founded on mass media, analogue channels, passiveaudiences and intrusive messages and initiatives, are necessarily beingsubjected to review, refinement and recalibration.

Selective perception, message rejection, and subjective, emotion-basedevaluations persist. However, in a grossly over-communicated society the“communication fog” is more enveloping. Seemingly, boundless informationexists and is being projected and articulated, but to less effect.

It is not that the intended recipients are immune. Rather, they are moreoriented to specific platforms and channels. Influences and influencers aremore self-determined, often of questionable credibility, transparency andintegrity.

Long-established, traditional mass-media sources have been subjected tointense and repeated scrutiny. Negative and qualifying fallout is inevitablewith repeated references about “fake news”, “social-bias”, “left-wing”,“right-wing” and “after-dark” commentaries.

Truth, balance and objectivity seem historic virtues.

The accuracy of the mass-media commentary is considered to parallel that ofeconomists and weather forecasters (or meteorologists, who are deemed to be ina parallel universe).

Against a background of popularist politics, personified with the pretenceof Donald Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (President of Turkey) and RodrigoDuterte (President of Philippines) and unsubstantiated tweets on social media,the causes of unanticipated consequences are difficult to source, andtherefore to analyse, influence and implement.


Effective initiation of conversations and the guiding of narratives can be afunction of repetition and volume. Getting above the clutter of “white noise”(unobtrusive background ambient sound and messaging) requires concise,specific, attitudes, opinions, values, perceptions and intent, which areconsciously “packaged” as “authorative”, “authentic facts”. Really? Well notreal, but executed with intent.

Endorsers, ambassadors and advocates who pass on, share and “like”communications, multiply the exposure and acceptance of key messages. However,the original initiator loses control of the distribution process.

Unintended and unknown audiences typically result in unintended and unknownoutcomes. Philosophical acceptance is understandable. One can only do what onecan do, and what one intended. The consequences are in another realm and areanother dimension.


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the interdependent nature of businessesand demand. In many, if not most cases, such relationships overlap andintegration were not recognised nor considered in the formulation,documentation and implementation of strategies and tactics.

For example, retailers of homeware have learnt that a long-standing competitorwas the tourism industry. Week-in and week-out sales, revenue andopportunities were lost to self-indulgent expenditure which was centred oninterstate and international travel, accommodation, dining and experiences.

Hard-border lockdowns imposed by governments narrowed options and channelledboth attention and expenditure on “hard-products” from the homeware (amongothers) sector.

Alas, a further case study of unintended consequences.

Who would have thought? Who would have, and did know?

It’s time to awaken to the realities and complexities of the contemporary(probably not new) world – and to the many unintended consequences.


Self-belief in one’s ability to discerningly and discretely target narrow-based audiences, limits the scope to generate widespread interest, demand,sales, revenue, profit and ultimately repeat and loyal business.

Cascading exposure and impact should be accepted, welcomed – free from thedesire to justify and explain such unintended consequences. Be philosophical.

Such does not fall within the bounds of chaos theory.


A butterfly flutters its wings in the Amazon basin, Brazil, South America.
Meanwhile, on the plains of Africa…

Consequences. Unintended.

Barry Urquhart
Business Strategist
Marketing Focus
M: 041 983 5555
E: [email protected]
W: www.marketingfocus.net.au

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