Behaviors, whether on- or offline, can be understood as manifestations of desire. Typically, desires lead to intentions, which in turn lead to actions. Targeting in the digital space currently focuses on tracking actions to infer purchase intent. While this alone is highly beneficial, it also encourages marketers to view purchase intent solely as need fulfillment and utility maximization. It paints a dry picture of consumers as robots that sit in front of screens, methodically clicking away. This may not be the best way to look at consumption because a large distinction exists between consumer desire and consumer need. A need is prioritized, planned for, addressed, and satisfied through a highly logical mental process. Desire, on the other hand, is much more compelling. It wholly takes control of one's thoughts, feelings, and actions with or without reason. As powerful as it can be, consumer desire is overwhelmingly felt to be a positive emotion.
Lessons From the Design World
Desire plays a significant role in our lives as an often subconscious motivator to our actions. Design-focused businesses have long understood its importance in inducing consumers to reach out and grab a product from the shelf. For instance, proprietary industry research tools such as NeuroDesign leverage emotional brand drivers, construct a map of visual analogs for these drivers, then apply the analogs to a brand's existing equities. This process results in a highly complex spectrum of emotionally powerful visual communication options. Most important, such research instruments enable designers and marketers to identify what's desirable and optimal for consumer connection.
Behavioral targeting can certainly learn from the design world. Instead of just tracking consumers' online actions, marketers should incorporate metrics that capture consumers' level of desire and emotional connectivity to brands. This proposition may seem like a stretch, but a slew of new evaluation tools is already taking behavioral targeting in that direction. Offering a different focus than current cookie-reliant models, these new methods aim to gain a more comprehensive view of customer behavior.
Examples of New Tools
Tel Aviv, Israel, based NuConomy recognizes the increasing irrelevance of page views and offers a different metric than Nielsen. Instead of measuring minutes spent on a site, it focuses on gauging a semantic layer to illustrate how engaged a user is with a brand or product. This concentration on engagement is taking Web analysis closer to the mind of consumers than the standard metrics, such as page views and clicks (especially since recent research has shown that the number of clicks aren't indicative of purchase intent).
Other new players in the behavioral targeting field use direct indicators of interests, sophisticated psychographic analyses, or both to find likely targets for brand advertisers. Mindset Media, due to launch this spring, seeks to do just that by using a combination of 100,000 75-question personality surveys and modeling techniques to help marketers target their users based on such qualities as "leadership," "spontaneity," and "altruism."
Microsoft is making similar advancements in targeting with the introduction of a tool that integrates ROI (define) measurement and tracking. For example, the last click in a sequence of online actions typically leads to a concrete and measurable action (e.g., a purchase). This last click, which usually takes the form of a search or text ad, will get clicked far more often than banners and other brand ads the consumer encounters along the way. The last click becomes the most important touch point while other branding ads are ignored or not fully accounted for. Current targeting methods are unable to assign quantifiable value to the various brand advertising, which Microsoft is trying to solve by using an engagement mapping tracking system that will ascribe value to all brand ads seen by consumers before they hit the last click. Thus, Microsoft is taking tracking beyond pure action and analyzing the impact of ads in a sequence of events.
What This Means for Behavioral Targeting
New methodologies are moving behavioral marketing in a promising direction toward a deeper understanding of consuming minds rather than just focusing on trackable behaviors. From a psychological perspective, the core of marketing is really about deconstructing human conduct. The goal in the digital space, then, is increasing desire, which can help drive more traffic to a site and increase purchase intent in the process. Research shows that 95 percent of our brains' operations occur below the level of conscious thought. With the advancements in technology, now's the time to tap into consumers' subconscious functions and start analyzing online behaviors as manifestations, or increments, of desire.
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Vicky Chen is a strategist at Sid Lee. Based in Amsterdam, she works with global clients such as Heineken, Red Bull, Swarovski, and Adidas to create and communicate desired brand experiences.
Vicky was previously a strategist at Naked New York, and started her career as a psychologist, focusing on socio-cultural dynamics and its influence on people's realities and behaviors.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT