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Targeted Marketing — So Much to Consider

October 22, 2015


“The marketing world can be a tricky place,” writes Adam Groff, “especially if you head into each new campaign not really knowing who your customers are. Fortunately, targeted marketing can help you hit the mark with each new campaign you release.”[1] Targeted marketing is only possible when enough data can be collected and analyzed in order to properly identify and segment customers. The whole philosophy behind targeted marketing is that by knowing their ideal customers companies can reach out to those individuals who are most likely to buy their product or services. The benefit for consumers is that the offers they receive are more likely to appeal to their personal preferences and tastes. Targeting marketing is supposed to generate a closer and better relationship between companies and consumers; but, collecting and analyzing oceans of data can make the process seem impersonal. Mike Burton observes, “Awash in data, predictive models, charts, and graphs, it can be easy for marketers to forget that those data points — those dots on the graph — are actually people.”[2] Developing a good relationship is actually becoming more difficult in the information age. Armed with mobile devices consumers now have more information available to them anytime and anywhere. As a result, Accenture analysts Pete Choo and Irenie Poitras note, “Consumers today are less loyal to brands than ever before.”[3] To rekindle brand loyalty, Choo and Poitras insist that companies need to develop “living services” that continue to adapt to the changing business landscape. They explain:

“The most forward-looking CPG companies are developing services that focus on giving each consumer exactly what he or she cares about most. These companies are sympathetic to their consumers’ needs, concerns and preferences to an unprecedented level of detail. Perhaps the most striking aspect of these new services is that they do not stay still. They morph and evolve to reflect changes in the consumer’s lifestyle and habits. Truly, they are ‘living services’.”

Trying to create the kind of relationship recommended by Choo and Poitras can backfire if your company crosses the line from being sympathetic to consumer needs to being a creepy stalker that seems to know the most intimate details of a person’s life. It’s a fine line that companies need to learn to walk. A safe way to start is with traditional point of sale data. “Whether you break this customer data down into buying trends or demographics,” writes Groff, “tracking purchase histories will reveal your ideal market. If your current data doesn’t provide enough insight, you can try implementing customer surveys or loyalty programs into your marketing endeavors.” Others argue, however, that buying trends and demographics alone will not generate the kind of ROI that most companies would like to achieve. Kimberlee Morrison (@kymleeisawesome) explains, “Demographics have been one of the defining tools marketers use to serve the right content to the right audiences. However, we’ve seen that broad demographic data can lead to inaccurate targeting and wasted resources. A report from Networked Insights demonstrates how targeting your marketing around life events may be a much more effective strategy.”[4] It’s understandable why targeting your market around life events can be more effective. Morrison writes, “Life events provide a lot of opportunity for marketers. Consumers going through life events are much more likely to have similar purchase needs than consumers that are merely in the same age, gender or income demographic. Additionally, if brands are able to get this marketing right they can begin to engage in lifecycle marketing for those consumers.” I would add a word of caution; namely, target marketing to life events can also bring your company closer to the creepy line. Be careful. Morrison reports that Networked Insights calls life event marketing “Hi-def” marketing. “Life event marketing is better than demographic data,” Morrison writes, “because it brings the right content to the right people.” And she should have added, “At the right time.” She continues:

“The study identified three main data points that could help marketers discover opportunities:

1. Consumer interests: the brands, media, websites, and the apps consumers are talking about

2. Consumer emotions: the positive and negative sentiment associated with the life event

3. Emotional drivers: the situations that drive broad consumer emotions like excitement, anxiety, etc.

Overall, emotions contribute to a significant portion of the discussion around life events like graduating, buying a home, or having a child. The study noted that 25.8 to 35.2 percent of all discussion of these topics is based around emotional discussion with 71.2 to 73.9 percent of those emotions being positive.”

When a company starts targeting audiences based on emotion, they risk being accused of either being manipulative or taking advantage of people when they are most vulnerable. Even if your company is trying to do a good thing, those kinds of accusations can damage its reputation. Nevertheless, Choo and Poitras agree that the nearer a company gets to the creepy line without crossing it the more effective marketing can be. They explain:

“In recent decades, marketers have used focus groups and consumer surveys to segment the market. Successful living services call for a more in-depth, almost anthropological understanding of individual consumers — using ethnographic techniques to isolate pain points, habits and obsessions. This is an innovative approach, and marketers should ensure they are leading the activity. Using empathy, creativity and wide-ranging customer knowledge, marketers will help amaze, excite and reignite consumer loyalty in a tough market.”

Jordan Slabaugh, Vice President of Marketing at Wayin, believes a safer way to implement targeted marketing is by segmenting consumers according to where they are in their digital path to purchase. “The best marketing strategies, Slabaugh writes, “start by defining their customers’ journey through the path to purchase and then tailor marketing efforts accordingly. New customers are targeted with different marketing material than those who have made recent purchases or have abandoned shopping carts.”[5] Slabaugh continues:

“Prospective customers are arguably the most important for marketers to target accurately. Marketers need to have a solid plan in place for attracting customers in within their target persona and then build awareness and interest with their brand. In today’s crowded market, this is critical for all brands — large or small, new or old. The most effective marketers are embracing social media to understand current interests of buyers and surfacing user-generated content to speak to these interests and build awareness through the messages we all trust — those of people like us.”

Clearly, there are a lot of things to consider when implementing a targeted marketing strategy. Because there are so many variables to consider, companies would be wise to consider using cognitive computing capabilities. Cognitive computers can handle many more variables than other computing systems and are better equipped to analyze big data and provide insights and recommendations that can greatly enhance targeted marketing efforts.


[1] Adam Groff, “Make sure to properly target your customers,” Business Review Canada, 4 September 2015.
[2] Mike Burton, “Use intent data to anticipate your customers’ needs,” iMedia Connection, 9 September 2015.
[3] Pete Choo and Irenie Poitras, “Bringing Services To Life: Introducing The Emerging World Of Living Services,” MediaPost, 23 September 2015.
[4] Kimberlee Morrison. “Report: Why Life Event Marketing Is More Effective Than Demographic Targeting,” Social Times, 29 September 2015.
[5] Jordan Slabaugh, “Using Social Content to Impact Each Stage of the Customer Lifecycle,” Social Times, 25 September 2015.

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