Legend has it, a very smart researcher used to ask his PhD students a simple question to sort the intellectual wheat from the chaff.

He’d draw a line.

At one end, he’d write “Hard working.”

At the other end, he’d write “Intelligent.”

Hard working or intelligent

And he’d ask the student whereabouts on the continuum they would place themselves.

Some would err on the side of “Intelligent”, perhaps believing this is what the researcher would prefer. (Or perhaps because it was drawn on the right and all the best continuums run to the right. That’s not true. I just made that up. But cultural cues would suggest grid-drawers like the good bits to the top and the right.)

Some would err on the side of “Hard working”, perhaps prompted by the researcher’s comments about the importance of a team mentality and the habit of late night finishes.

The ones who did not err would look up from the paper and say, “This is not a continuum. These two traits are neither opposite nor analogous.” (Or words to that effect.)

The question being asked was not the question being voiced.

The trap was to assume a binary choice where one did not exist.

And so, via the scenic route, to my point.

Byron Sharp (the most well-known and visible of the bright and shiny minds at the Ehrenberg Bass Institute) is a fan of mass marketing.

Mark Ritson is a self-avowed fan of targeting and segmentation, as seen here and here and here. He is also, to be fair, a fan of the work done by Professor Sharp and the team at the institute. But he is enough of a cheer squad for targeting to have the marketing end of the internet pool screaming “Fight! Fight! Fight!” whenever Adjunct Professor Ritson wears his targeting trousers in public.

To the delight of the peanut gallery, there was this sharp response to the Branding Professor’s April offering.

And didn’t the audience love it.

However, I wonder if the internet has its undies in a scrunch over nothing.

While more and more marketers seem to be jumping onto Byron’s Bandwagon (think the 2016 pronouncements by the Global CMO of Mars as well as Coca-Cola, P&G, Unilever and Kellogs) are we oversimplifying the challenge?

Despite our desire for simple binary solutions, (right or wrong, black or white, up or down) might this broad reach vs targeting kerfuffle be the equivalent of the hackneyed advertising trope, “She’s right. He’s male.”?

What if the opposite of “Targeted” was not “Broad reach” but simply “Untargeted”?

What if the opposite of “Broad reach” was not “Targeted” but “Narrow reach”?

I’m not trying to vote either of these gentlemen off the island. I’m just asking why we insist on there being only one right answer.

Why do we assume there is a silver bullet to be found when we all know vampires can only be killed with a stake through the heart?