Online Segmentation: From User to Usage

My previous article discussed online branding challenges. Since then, many readers have emailed, sharing with me similar woes in regard to better targeting consumers online. So let’s stop a moment and discuss interactivity, since interactive media is the only vehicle that has a consumer inches away from your ad. And because that is so, advertisers are on a quest for “eyeballs.” However, eyeballs are not consumers.

Do we really know our consumers? In the early days of online advertising, we targeted solely by demographics — age, income, and gender. There has been a dramatic shift toward psychographics — attitudes. Today, we tend to gear our media placements and creative messaging toward the lifestyles of our target audience.

For instance, an automobile manufacturer has to be on relatively niche sites (e.g., Car and Driver,, Kelly Blue Book). However, these sites are full of clutter. To augment our targeting, we seek sites with creative that lends itself to the lifestyle of the potential car buyer. If we had a car model geared toward a 50-year-old male making $75,000-plus, how can we scratch below the surface? Perhaps we look into sites with stock-ticker bars, mortgage calculators, leader boards, or niche content from smaller sites within networks.

Think of all that a 50-year-old male does in the course of a day other than driving a car. He buys a certain brand of clothing, buys a favorite breakfast food he has to eat on the run as he drops his kids off at school in the suburbs, and then drives to work in the city… The list is long.

If we gear our media plans toward demographics and psychographics, we’ve done our jobs as effective media planners, right? Wrong. Even when we marry contextually relevant messaging and creative for such sites, we still have work to do.

We must ask ourselves: When are consumers most open to our advertising messages? And how can we reach consumers deeply in such an environment?

Rarely does a study come across my desk that makes me stop dead in my tracks. So I have to share this with you. Recently, Nielsen//NetRatings and Booz-Allen & Hamilton undertook a research partnership called the Digital Customer Project for the purpose of using Web-usage tracking to better understand and target online customers.

The study grouped online users in seven groups:

These categorizations allow us to look deeper into the mindset of our consumers. Although I don’t believe this is a standalone way of targeting, it could prove to be an essential part of the overall consideration set. However, this new “occasionalization” has peaked my interest. Maybe this is the fuel publishers and researchers need when packaging sponsorships and programs for folks like me.

After all, there’s something to be said for a health nut craving ice cream in the middle of the day. Enough said.

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