The Growing Complexity of Behavior

  |  September 26, 2007   |  Comments

Are behaviors becoming amalgamated as a result of digital convergence?

Last week, I got into an interesting discussion with a friend about how the methods with which people stay in touch reflects (or are sometimes dictated by) the level of intimacy in the friendship.

I explained that when it comes to acquaintances, I rarely give out my mobile number. Ironic as it may sound, I give them my personal e-mail because it offers an extra layer of privacy. If I don't want to reply, I can always use the "Oh, I haven't checked that e-mail account" excuse to cover any potentially uncomfortable situations.

Once a connection is established via private e-mail, and this person proves to be someone I want to stay in touch with more frequently, I usually give him my work e-mail to allow instant access to me (thanks to my ever-growing BlackBerry addiction). And eventually, with close friends and family, I provide my mobile number to allow the most personal level of contact and communication.

My behaviors change accordingly relative to these privacy layers and filters, and from device to device, to reflect my level of closeness with each contact. Whether others share my behavioral preferences or not, this discussion raises an important question: in our multi-everything world where the phone, MP3 player, and e-mail device are all one, are behaviors becoming amalgamated as a result of digital convergence?

Or has this convergence actually spawned a new set of rules and personal behaviors to accommodate our equally growing need for privacy and personalized communication?

The Behavior-Device Conundrum

Do desired behaviors dictate the devices and formats used, or are devices developed to cater to and facilitate our behaviors? In essence, do behaviors follow devices and platforms, or the other way around?

The academic behavioral explanation suggests all behavior is learned, and learned as functions of events within the environment. Adaptive behaviors are the result of learning appropriate responses to various prompts in the environment. This confirms that when individual devices have unique functions, behaviors can be unique to that individual platform.

But in the state of functional convergence of platforms, we may need to consider other variables, such as benefits, features, emotions, motives, urges, and needs to determine the relationship between behavior and device.

While this may seem like a chicken-or-egg question, remember devices or tools (particularly digital and interactive ones) can not only change behaviors but also the task itself.

The Impact of Screen Fluidity

The convergence of devices isn't news, but we're all still adjusting to multidevice behaviors.

Modern consumers' fluid migration or simultaneous movement between screens (any combination of TV, online, mobile, and outdoor) isn't a hypothesized communication nightmare but a real-life marketing challenge. This fluidity has fundamentally deconstructed the media planning framework as we know it.

While we know the classical planning pillars of reach and frequency are no longer sufficient to reach consumers, there are still few studies that demonstrate marketers' and publishers' understanding of this screen fluidity and the impact on consumer behavior in the multimedia consumption patterns.

If consumers have fundamentally adopted multidevice based behaviors, shouldn't behavioral targeting solutions follow such patterns rather than a silo-based approach that's focused solely on online? To realize the true potential of behavioral targeting, it's imperative we first understand the intricately interrelated relationship between device platform and behavior.

What This Means for Online Media

The proliferation of digital devices and the amalgamation of functions have provided new platforms for unprecedented behaviors to form and develop. Growing consumer demands and expectations of devices have clearly accelerated the speed of innovation in product development.

In this ever-complicating behavior-device equation, it's more important to understand the underlying motivation behind the use of each platform than to comprehend which came first, the device or the behavior.

Transmedia planning has been gaining a lot more recognition from planners and strategists as a more holistic way to approach integrated communication. The concept refers to using each channel or platform for what it's best purposed for. Certain channels are more appropriate for generating awareness, while other are best at facilitating interaction and engagement.

As consumers start to multitask to unprecedented level, behavioral targeting should be done in a transmedia fashion to capture all the actions across different platforms to truly reflect diversifying consumer behaviors.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Chen

Based in London, Andy Chen is vice president of digital solutions for Viacom Brand Solutions(VBS) International. Prior to Viacom, Andy was the media strategy director at Carat International/Isobar, which handles global media and digital strategies for Philips, Renault, Adidas, and various other multinational clients.

A true advocate for global integration and strategy, Andy has lived and worked in Copenhagen and Stockholm, where he was a management consultant for the Swedish Advertising Association. He received his BA from University of California, Berkeley; and a MBA in international marketing and global management from Stockholm University, School of Business. Named one of the "20 Rising Media Stars to Watch in 2004" by "Media Magazine," Andy is a frequent international conference speaker on digital and interactive media. He published his first collaborative book, "The Changing Communication Paradigm," in November 2005.

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