behavioural targeting, behavioral targeting, targeting, demographic, segmentation, personalization

As we approach the 2020s behavioural targeting is far more relevant than demographics.

We need to stop marketing to people by generation, marketers fixated on Millennials, Generation X or Z are stuck in the analogue past.  Even within each generation, we tend to lump everyone in together with a single narrative: Millennials are all ‘snowflakes’, Baby Boomers are selfish.  According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials include anyone born between 1981 and 1996, as of 2018 that spans people aged 22 to 36 years old. That is a broad age range, so we are wrong to assume they are all the same.  In response, the Boston Consulting Group has segmented US millennials into 6 distinct groups based on their attitudes and behaviours from Hip-ennials to Anti-Millennials.

This exposes the limitations of traditional targeting methods based on demographics.  Targeting by age, sex and location was fine when we had to rely on panels and diaries for audience data.  However, we live in the age of Big Data and have access to information that can tell us more about human attitudes and behaviour than ever before.  Targeting using broad demographic parameters is no longer fit for purpose.

Targeting by taste

Last year media agency, MediaCom, found that one of its blue-chip clients was attaining 50% of its sales from outside of its core age-based target (Adweek).  It seems that what binds customers together is not their age but their taste, values and interests.  Netflix VP of Product, Todd Yellin famously has gone so far as to say, “Geography, age and gender? We put that in the garbage heap.  Where you live is not that important.”  Netflix targets people by taste, so a 75-year-old woman who watches ‘Breaking Bad’ is potentially grouped with an 18-year-old male based on their viewing preferences.  Using lookalike audiences based on behaviour rather than demographics, Netflix’s recommender systems predict what content you will enjoy watching next.  Amazon does the same with product and YouTube with video, to serve customers up relevant content.

Living Businesses

Relevance – that word keeps popping up again and again.  According to a Harvard Business Review article by John Zealley et al. earlier this year, marketing has transitioned from a focus on loyalty and CRM to an era of relevance and digital transformation.   In order to remain relevant companies need to appeal to the emotions and become ‘living businesses’ with an emphasis on personalized experiences, trust and shared values – the 5 Ps (purpose, pride, partnership, protection, personalization).  So, Hertz, for example, uses predictive data to offer highly relevant personalized offers at just the right time based on past customer rejection of offers.

“The reality is there is no such archetypical customer. Everyone’s needs vary depending on time and context” (John Zealley). Predictive Big Data allows for the personalization of marketing by delivering relevant experiences at the right time to customers based not on demographic data but rather on past behaviour.  As some sage person once said, “The past informs the present”.

About the author

Blog post by Christine Babington Smith, an expert in marketing strategy and marketing communications.  She is the founder of Torehill, a marketing strategy consultancy which works with ambitious enterprises. Torehill’s team includes CIM & MBA trained marketers with between 10–20 years’ experience.  Our backgrounds cover London’s premier advertising agencies, PLCs and high-profile start-ups. Our consultancy services include marketing strategy, branding workshops, marketing communications, campaign planning, website development, PR and digital.

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