Video Essentials

Brands Should Be Farmers, Not Hunters in Next-Phase Marketing

We’re about to hit the next wave of large-scale marketing change, yet many brands aren’t prepared for the coming revolution. My advice? Put down your guns, pick up your shovels, and dig in!

We’re all familiar with the first two waves of marketing. The first was the “Mad Men” era of advertising; TV audiences were virtually captive to linear programming on three major networks, and thus, were easy targets. Brands simply needed to deliver the right creative message to hit the bullseye. Phase two upped the ante quite a bit. Digital created many more choices for consumers’ interactions with brands—in this phase, marketers had to hunt for their targets, then quickly pull the trigger when they’d found them.

The next phase of marketing represents a paradigm shift—one in which consumers have virtually no restrictions and unlimited power. They can choose when and where to consume the content they desire, in the format and on the device they want. Most significantly, consumers can choose when, how, and if they will engage with brands. In this new landscape, brands risk losing significant mind- and market-share if they continue to act like hunters—instead they need to become farmers. Brands should pick up their shovels and dig deep to unearth the information required to understand who their best audiences are. And, just as farmers apply their knowledge about how a plant interacts with the sun, climate, and water to draw it from the ground, brands should seek and leverage an understanding of how consumers interact with each other, media, brands, and technology to draw them in.

What steps should marketers and brands take to begin the evolution from hunter to farmer? The first is recognizing the very real choices shoppers have. The second is realizing that brands can no longer “market to” consumers—because theirs is not a passive role. Getting someone to buy from you—whether they are open to new brands or were buying from a competitor—means connecting with that customer at the right moment and changing their preference. In order to do that, marketers need tools that can provide a deeper understanding of consumers’ histories and affinities—the connective tissues that bind people to interests, each other, and brands.

The data most marketers have been reliant on—demographics and location—as well as the metrics—reach and frequency—and the methods—targeting and retargeting—don’t provide the depth of information or precision required for insights into affinities. Instead, what’s needed are tools that go further and benchmark brands’ engagement over time, against competitors, and against themselves, as well as in comparison to other choices consumers may make. The deeper dive provided by these solutions will allow brands to discover more nuanced information about consumers. For example, by comparing the choices consumers make—or don’t make—against their historical engagements, and against other data, a brand might discover a consumer with a mutual or negative affinity with them (and may decide not to invest or connect with that consumer). They also might find other consumers that are open to new brands and new messages and invest in them in order to change their preferences and drive elevated affinity.

Let’s look at an example that demonstrates the value of discovering a negative affinity. If Netflix is considering who to target with an advertisement for “House of Cards,” it might look at what programming its targets watch, and just as importantly, what they don’t watch. Learning that a viewer skipped the Super Bowl to watch “House of Cards” says volumes not only about their preference for the popular Netflix political series, but also demonstrates that they don’t care about group pressures and are willing to opt out of major societal events.

A more nuanced and deeper knowledge of consumers’ affinities and histories enables brands to make better decisions on what content to create and which environment to place it in, which in turn creates a scenario in which the consumer will choose to see the message, choose to engage with a brand, and choose to share that experience with the rest of their network. But insights shouldn’t stop with consumer engagement; marketers should then focus on what they can glean from the fact that a consumer chose to watch their ad. For example, what did the consumer choose to do next? Did they engage with the brand in any other way, e.g. talk about the products or visit the web site? Or did they do nothing? And how do those actions or inactions compare to other scenarios and venues where the brand placed messages and invested dollars?

Going back to Netflix, think about how it decides what shows to recommend viewers watch. Millions, perhaps billions of data points are considered based on past viewing behavior and that of its other 100 million subscribers. Or, think about how Amazon makes product recommendations. The same algorithmic approach is required for marketers to best position their brands in a world of on-demand everything. Going forward, the brands that have traded their guns for shovels and know they need to use new tools to understand consumers’ choices, histories, and interactions, will make the true connections need to be chosen by consumers.

Guest post by Lance Neuhauser, the CEO of data science and media technology company 4C Insights. accepts guest posts based upon their usefulness to our readers.


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