Target marketing: Taking digital knowledge into real-life experiences

Sorry marketers — today’s customers are over your cute jingles. While a fun theme song and a cartoon mascot were enough to sell breakfast cereal to millennials when they were kids, the grown-up version of this digital generation expects companies to connect on their level and cough up valuable content.

This shift represents a massive shakeup in the core tenants of promoting brands, products and services. But it’s also an exciting opportunity, thanks to the unprecedented amount of technology and customer data at our fingertips. At least, I think it’s exciting. I’m one of those guys who’s more interested in Super Bowl commercials than who’s playing the game, and I watch the Apple keynote each year like it’s the State of the Union Address.

The most exciting part of today’s marketing world is the way it intersects with technology and gadgets. But how did we get here? And, how can marketers best harness the information and tools at their disposal to do some really cool stuff? To answer those questions, I present what you might call my State of the Marketing Union. (Please, hold your applause until the end.)

Moving beyond “Who knows?” marketing

“Mad Men”-era marketing may have been innovative, but it was very difficult to measure its impact. As our contact with shoppers moved from print newspaper and flyer ads to higher-tech radio and TV, marketers continued to focus on the creative — we weren’t armed with strategic insight about what worked and what didn’t. Instead, we hoped the old “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks” method wouldn’t end in our messages sliding down the wall and hitting the floor. 

But then came the best thing to happen to advertising since infomercials — the Internet. From the first banner ad, we not only had a fresh medium for reaching audiences, we also knew how many people clicked on the ad, as well as a host of other information about each individual. It was marketing magic. 

Now, online capabilities are making their way to traditional media like TV and print. Since most television today is received through a set-top box with an internal computer, marketers no longer rely on a target audience of anonymous broadcast recipients. Instead, entertainment providers can target specific commercials to specific households based on factors like neighborhood, individual demographic information and online behavior. 

For example, if I’m surfing the couch and researching a trip to Disneyland while my wife watches her favorite program, it’s possible to “retarget” a television commercial about Disneyland during the program. This context-based ad automation will become the norm in the next few years — exciting, right?

But let’s make sure we’re using this “marketing magic” to the best of our ability. As we enable all marketing to be digitally enabled, we can — and should — acknowledge each individual we’re marketing to and present them a personalized storyline about our product or service. 

And remember: The consumer of the future isn’t interested in technology for technology’s sake, as we found in our recent “Sci-Fi Shopper” report. Consumers may love personalization, but they are most excited if it adds convenience or otherwise help to meet their daily needs. 

Harnessing the magic

Our smartphones and other personal gadgets act as portable tracking devices, broadcasting our personalities and preferences, and giving marketers a set of rich insights to guide our efforts. So, what will this optimized new world order of marketing look like?

  • Feeds, feeds and more feeds. Today, most of the new places we advertise don’t support the networks marketers use and are tough to buy. But as these advertising venues connect to the networks and tools we use to drive digital marketing, more and more opportunities will come within our reach.
  • A midnight ad snack?Google wrote a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission saying that one day it will be able to advertise on car dashboards, watches, glasses and, yes, refrigerators. It’s probably just a matter of time before Google enables vending machine companies, outdoor advertising networks or the devices in our homes to join its platform.
  • Sponsored — behind the wheel.Many companies are already moving from direct product sales to subscriptions or on-demand services. Everything that can be sponsored, will be. Would you buy a Tesla if the company significantly lowered the price of its vehicles, but an in-dash screen displayed marketing messages while you’re at a stoplight?

Perhaps most exciting of all, this new era of marketing is realizing its full potential through headless commerce, letting customers check out anytime, anywhere. Waiting at the bus stop and hungry for a pizza? Good news — your favorite restaurant has an ad on the terminal wall, and you can order immediately. 

While it’s an exciting time for marketers as we leverage personal insights to add relevance to modern marketing experiences, we also have a responsibility to consider the tremendous trust our customers are placing on our shoulders. I challenge you not only to think about the possibilities that technology can drive in terms of revenue and marketing, but also in terms of your brand’s reputation and security. We are stewards of insights and committing to our customers requires we hold ourselves to the highest standards of both content and privacy. 

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