Behaviorally Target the Mindset

I recently had the pleasure of attending a European online conference in Valencia, Spain. Though Valencia is hardly known for its digital prowess, the conference organizer managed to mobilize agencies and publishers from across Europe to attend this event.

The content covered a gamut of topics, including the usual suspects of search, display advertising, and branding. But it also surprised me with discussions of next-generation digital devices and rather extensive coverage of behavioral targeting.

One speaker (who shall remain nameless but is the managing director of a well-known interactive agency in Germany) asked, “What is a FMCG behavior?” in the context of behavioral targeting. He followed up with a question about how advertisers could behaviorally target someone who’s a potential customer for low-involvement purchase products, such as toilet paper.

While his questions are valid, they’re also symptomatic of the challenge that most of the industry still considers behavioral targeting a mere function-based technology. There remains a lack of understanding of its greater potential as a communications platform.

The questions also present another interesting thought: as our mindsets often influence and dictate relevant actions, do they lead to predictable, consequent behaviors?

It Begins With a Thought

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The ancestor of every action is a thought.” In its simplest form, a thought can be described as mental activity, such as consideration, attention, anticipation, or expectation. In other words, a thought can be referred to as a mindset.

The mindset frames the user’s intent and interest, which usually leads to consequent, related behavior or action. This means while there is always be a certain amount of the population “telescoping,” or just meandering through cyberspace, not knowing what they’re looking for or doing, the majority of the population goes online with specific tasks in mind.

Whether they’re looking for maps or directions, finding information about a specific topic or product, comparing prices, shopping for a flat-screen TV, or just going to their favorite destinations for game scores, users’ behaviors are heavily influenced by their mindset.

Advertisers’ challenge, then, is to identify the right thought and develop a set of likely behaviors to target them.

Tap Into the Vertical Mindset

If the long-tail economy taught us anything, it’s that niche and interest-based verticals are increasingly important channels for reaching consumers. The Internet continues to exponentially enable people to follow and cultivate their passions, and the value of these vertical environments is aggressively taking over that of mass-market media vehicles.

So do these vertical and niche contents command a predetermined mindset that may lead to specific related behaviors?

When it comes to behavioral targeting, what’s interesting isn’t just the ability to reach niche audiences and capturing the long-tail economy, but the capability to deploy behavioral targeting in a naturally targeted mindset.

Although the jury’s still out on the ability to increase campaign performance, large advertising networks do offer comprehensive behavioral targeting solutions with a focus on vertical and niche categories with specific mindsets. New ad networks such as Adify even allow advertisers to create and form their own vertical networks to increase the targeting specificity.

What Does This Mean for Online Media?

The surround session was introduced over six years ago by “The New York Times.” As Marketing defined it, a surround session is an “advertising sequence in which a visitor receives ads from one advertiser throughout an entire site visit.”

While the idea of the surround session never really took off to the extent behavioral targeting did, it does offer insight for advertisers: when it comes to reaching the targeting audience effectively, it’s all about people, their interests, consequent behaviors, and associated mindsets.

Rather than ask what kind of behaviors can be classified and targeted as a “toilet paper customer,” we should focus on developing a communications strategy and identifying who the actual targets for the product are, what their associated behaviors are according to their interests and passion, and, most important, what the potential “mindsets” associated with the psychographic behaviors are.

Behavioral targeting is a targeting tool, but it can also be a strategic platform to increase communications’ relevance overall.

Nominate your choice of technologies, companies, and campaigns that made a positive difference in the online marketing industry in the last decade. Nominations end August 3 at 5:00 pm (EDT).

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