A challenge with behavioral targeting (and interpersonal relationships, in general) is properly interpreting consumer behavior to respond with a proper message. Consequently, a large amount of money is invested with the premise that if a consumer performs a certain action (e.g., visits a wedding site), then the behavior signifies that she's in market for a certain product (e.g., a wedding dress) and may be targeted with a certain advertisement (e.g., an invitation to a trunk show). However, as experience as taught us personally and professionally, human behavior isn't always transparent and requires additional insight from the observer.
I recently had a major life event, giving birth to twin boys who each measured 5 pounds, 8 ounces, and were 18 inches long when they were born. Since they were born with all the same statistics, I proceeded to treat them the same; I fed them the same amount, had them sleep for the same amount each day and in the same place. Well, it backfired. Twin A had a ferocious appetite and at four weeks was guzzling seven-ounce bottles down, making us wonder if we needed to offer him a slice of pizza next or call Jenny Craig. Conversely, Twin B thought he was training for a body-building competition and would eat two-ounce meals every three hours.
Once I stepped back from my charts and childrearing books, I was able to observe the patterns of behavior and, therefore, alter my approach (not the other way around). How many times do we do the same thing as marketers? How many times do we receive a brief with a line for the target audience: "adults 25-54 with a HH income of $75,000," and develop multimillion dollar plans assuming that the consumers' media habits are the same for the household making $75,000 in San Francisco as the one in Biloxi?
A friend once told me that she was bombarded by baby advertisements after purchasing a present for a baby shower off a registry. She said she visited the retail site once but proceeded to receive messages for five weeks after that before she cleared her cookies. She actually didn't remember visiting the site and asked me why she would see these ads (and provided me, as an industry rep, with her personal example on why online adverting is bad). Although my initial reaction was to defend online advertising -- and behavioral targeting, in general -- it did remind me that behavioral marketing's foundation can be shaky at times.
How can we provide a better foundation to build a behavioral plan against?
Below, five aspects to consider when we interpret consumer behavior:
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Based in New York, Anna Papadopoulos has held several digital media positions and has worked across many sectors including automotive, financial, pharmaceutical, and CPG.
An advocate for creative media thinking and an early digital pioneer, Anna has been a part of several industry firsts, including the first fully integrated campaign and podcast for Volvo and has been a ClickZ contributor since 2005. She began her career as a media negotiator for TBS Media Management, where she bought for media clients such as CVS and RadioShack. Anna earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from St. John's University in New York.
Anna's ideas and columns represent only her own opinion and not her company's.
June 20, 2013
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