Richard Edelman said it best: We are moving from mass communication to mass customization. No longer is it necessary to blast messages and advertising across broad numbers with the hope of snagging a few would-be customers.
Now, armed with the internet and people’s online fanaticism, there is more data on consumers than has ever existed, providing marketers with immense insights into user behavior. This information also has become the subject of considerable debate and rancor over privacy concerns. Yes, there’s a point where customer insight data may provide too much insight into a person’s online persona and buying habits. Have we reached that point now? Hard to say. The fact is, marketing gurus cannot get enough of this rich material.
Targeted marketing is not new. Traditionally, everything from the U.S. Census to credit card purchasing habits has been used to build a deeper understanding of people’s preferences and behaviors. Advertising agencies use powerful databases to unlock viewing habits and activities, and media buying organizations use this data to create targeted ad campaigns to hone in on specific audiences.
There’s a reason viewers see certain types of ads during certain shows, and it’s because media buyers have researched and pinpointed certain audience segments. Take, for example, daytime television. We all know certain types of programs run during the day while many people are at work, such as “The View.” We also know very specific categories of ads run in that time slot. Simple, isn’t it? You know (generally) who is watching and what types of things they are likely to purchase or do. We’re certainly not talking about a crapshoot here. Far from it.
Now look at the internet. The amount of information that Google, Amazon and Facebook derive from online users is astounding. Armed with mega-data on internet usage, companies can monitor and track millions of online experiences and use this powerful information to, as Mr. Edelman said, customize materials and deliver messages and ads to those most likely to respond. It’s no coincidence that you get pop-up ads for tires when you’ve been cruising the web for deals on new rubber.
With this laser-guided technology, savvy marketers are able to refine the target audience more specifically and effectively. What does this mean to companies wanting to spend less money on general advertising campaigns? A lot. Now, budgets can be refined to put the ad spend where it matters most –in tailored, direct-to-consumer messages that are based upon that person’s interactions with the world of screens. You know – phone, tablet, computer and television.
For those uncomfortable with the creeping nature of data collection – a feeling that Big Brother is out there watching – well, he is. Fact is, once we get online and start interacting, someone is collecting that data for their use. Many companies then sell this data, releasing the floodgates.
Online consumers and users will increasingly see the results of data mining: ever more targeted advertising and messages that make you feel someone else is living in your house. While George Orwell may have envisioned a time when someone is always watching you, he never envisioned a digital world where it’s happening 24/7/365.