In marketing we call our target consumers. Yet not all marketing goals or messages are about increasing consumption. Sometimes marketers want the target market to consume something different, consume less, or simply consume an idea.
Patagonia famously ran an ad with the headline “Don’t Buy This Jacket” on Black Friday. They sell clothing, but their overall mission is, “We’re in business to save our home planet. We aim to use the resources we have–our voice, our business, and our community–to do something about our climate crisis.”
Patagonia balances selling new clothes with its mission. For example, they encourage consumers to consume less by trading in old Patagonia clothes to be resold with its Wornwear program. They call for climate action on Twitter, and share conservation messages on their YouTube channel.
One video features Salvar Una Cuenca running to save a watershed. Another has an employee explaining how to repair a zipper to keep a jacket longer. The message is getting through. In a recent Harris Poll, Patagonia is listed as the most reputable company in the U.S.
Sometimes marketers want consumers to consume more of their product by consuming more but by consuming something different. An example is Campbell’s sharing recipes featuring their condensed soup as a key ingredient.
Campbell’s meets the needs of busy adults giving them quick and easy recipes that while increasing purchase of their soup. They send the message where their target is looking for meal ideas with timely posts on Pinterest like “Get hammy with your Easter leftovers.”
Gatorade is another example. They don’t want their consumers to consume more sports drinks during workouts. They want their target to drink Gatorade over competitor Powerade.
They position themselves as hydration for high school athletes by helping their target tell their sports stories on social media. They created a free app “Highlights” for teen athletes to capture and share pro videos of their best sports moments.
A nonprofit or government agency often wants marketing messages that encourage consumers to consume less such as a natural resource conservation effort. Right now many western states are facing severe droughts. They need marketing messages to get residents to consume less water.
Some public health efforts aim for no consumption. The Truth anti-tobacco campaign has used marketing to reduce teen smoking. In the 1990s, they used PSA TV ads to reach their audience. Now Truth is reaching teens on Instagram and Youtube to reduce teen vaping.
Other marketing messages encourage donations. The nonprofit Dress for Success targets women on Facebook to donate their professional clothes, talents, and time to help other women obtain opportunities and reach economic independence.
What other goals do social media marketing efforts try to accomplish for organizations, businesses, or clients?
A recent Adobe survey of business leaders indicates “better use of data for more effective audience segmentation and targeting” as a top priority for marketing. What is it and how do you do it?
Qualtrics defines market segmentation as “the practice of dividing your market into approachable groups … subsets of a market based on demographics, needs, priorities, common interests, and other psychographic or behavioral criteria used to better understand the target audience.”
Segmentation provides real benefits as 81% of executives say it is crucial to growing their profits. Segmentation can increase response rates and lower acquisition costs with:
More specific messages that resonate with customer’s wants and needs.
More personal messages that help brands stand out from the competition.
More targeted advertising to those most likely to convert to customers.
Once a business defines their target market or the specific group of people they will focus their products and services on they establish various target audiences to focus their marketing messages. There are further benefits in segmenting the target audience.
How do you segment your audience?
Consider an amusement park promoting tickets sales for the upcoming season. Their core target market is most likely adults 25-45 will children living at home. They would be the group most likely to plan and purchase tickets for immediate and extended family trips to the park.
First determine your general message.
Most businesses need to create general awareness before consideration by customers. Brand ads do this well.
An amusement park builds overall brand awareness through traditional TV, radio, print and billboard ads. These ads have a general theme showing kids, adults, grandparents and teens having fun at the park. This would appeal to their core target audience of adults with children planning family trips and looking to make sure the park has something for everyone.
Mass media must have broad appeal in messaging and imagery. In digital and social media there is opportunity to customize messages, imagery and offers.
Brainstorm audience segments.
Based on your knowledge of the target audience consider possible differences in wants and needs within the group. The amusement park may want to look at stage of life and location.
People in different stages of life may want different experiences at the park:
Adults with young children (age 25-34)
Adults with pre-teens/tweens (age 35-45)
High school/college students (age 13-24)
Grandparents (age 55+)
People who live different distances from the park may plan different types of trips:
Multi-visit locals (Within 40 miles)
Day trippers (40 to 100 miles)
Over nighters (Over 100 miles)
Consider content for each segment.
Now see if your segments make a difference in content. Determine how the messages, imagery and offers could differ for each of the segment’s needs.
Parents with young children would probably respond to content focused on smaller rides. Parents with elementary and middle school kids would look for more exciting attractions. High school and college students hang out with friends and take on the big roller coasters. Grandparents want see their grandchildren on rides while being able to sit and rest enjoying shows and restaurants.
With the geographic segments messaging and offers could get more focused. People within 40 miles would be most interested in season passes whether talking to families, teens or grandparents. People 40 to 100 miles away are most likely interested in day trips. Those over 100 miles away may want to know about other area attractions and park plus hotel packages for a multi-day trip.
Plan out content combinations.
Now plan out a content segment grid. Link various segments together to determine how many content variations you need.
Based on the amusement park brainstorming we have identified 12 market segments (4 X 3 = 12). Four are based on age and family demographics and three are based geographic variables. In a social media or display advertising campaign each of these 12 segments could be targeted with a unique message, image and promotional offer.
Consider your CRM data.
Most companies have customer relationship management (CRM) databases that could add another layer of segmentation. Look at that data for meaningful segments. This could help you rule out segments or find additional ones.
The amusement park could use their CRM to discover that the market for grandparents purchasing tickets is fairly small and decide not to target them. Their adult children tend to plan and purchase tickets for trips where the parents, younger children and grandparents come together. The data reveals parents purchase tickets for the high school and college students yet they often go to the park with friends. Thus, that audience may still be a worthwhile target as they influence the decision.
From these narrowed down segments the amusement park could send emails out to past customers with the segmented communications we’ve identified. Then from their email data they could create a remarketing campaign through custom audiences in social media and display advertising.
Unique remarketing messages could target email subscribers who:
Did not open the email
Opened the email but did not click
Clicked to the website but didn’t purchase
From the CRM database they also know how often people visit per year. They could target previous season ticket holders and people who visited three times on individual tickets with different season ticket messages.
They also know who has gone to concerts at the park amphitheater. They could target people who have been to concerts but not to the amusement park with a concert and park ticket package message, image and offer.
Additional possible segments from CRM data:
Previous season ticket holders
People who purchased 3 individual trips
People who purchased concert tickets
Look at your customer journey.
In any business their is a unique customer journey where customers move through various pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase stages. People in these different stages tend to seek different information.
Consider additional segments to target people in each of these stages with different content. This could include brand awareness, product, sales promotion, customer service, loyalty and advocacy messages.
When creating online social, video and display ads services such as YouTube and Google Advertising allow intent targeting for more relevant messages. Tara Walpert-Levy of Brand Solutions at Google explains it this way:
Let’s take the example of someone interested in buying a winter coat. To date, if you wanted to target video ads for winter coats, you could guess a demographic that might be more likely to buy winter coats (say, women 18 to 34) or use psychographics to target people who might be particularly into preparing for winter (say, ski enthusiasts). Intent signals eliminate that guesswork. You can serve ads to people who searched for winter coat deals, spent a lot of time scouting nearby ski resorts, or scrolled through coats in a shopping app.
Mobile campaigns that used intent-based targeting were found to have 20% higher ad recall and 50% higher brand awareness lift versus demographic targeting alone.
Create your content for each segment.
Once you have your audience segments you are ready to create your unique content. As seen in the chart above some will require only one customization while other contact may require customizing message, image and offer. Cristina Caligiuri and Ben Jones of Google’s Unskippable Labs have run experiments in testing how much you should customize in video ads. Across all forms of content be sure to follow best practices for content writing and design. Then run with it!
Measure resultsand optimize.
Going through this process you will most likely end up with many possibilities. Keep in mind that it is probably not worth segmenting messages to them all. Not every additional segment you create will produce significant improvements.
That is why you must measure results and optimize along the way. If the segment doesn’t increase conversions, stop using it and try something else. But the fact is segmentation works. A recent brand loyalty study found 75% of emails opened most frequently contain segmentation.
The amusement park may discover conversion on targeting multi-day trips to high school/college students over 100 miles away is too low. Instead they might try targeting adults 25-34 without kids for overnight park and concert trips.
How can you segment your target audience for improved results?
Social media has an important role to play in a new customer centered marketing cycle.
Google returns over 3,000 articles saying the marketing sales funnel is dead. Pronouncing a classic principle dead is helpful to attract attention and signify a big change. What is not helpful, is throwing the bath out with the bathwater believing there is no longer a path to purchase. Mark Ritson in Marketing Week appropriately said, “Reports of the death of the sales funnels are greatly exaggerated. Consumers might be bombarded with media and marketing from all angles, but markers must still understand how to influence their journeys towards a purchase.”
The original marketing funnel, also known as a sales, purchase or customer funnel is based on a hierarchy of effects model indicating consumers move through a series of stages to make purchase decisions. Known as the AIDA model marketing, advertising and sales people have been trained to move consumers through the stages of awareness, interest, desire and action. It is illustrated as a funnel because the number of potential prospects decreases with each stage and tactics change from branding and mass media advertising to sales promotion and personal sales.
The problem with the funnel is that it stops at purchase and does not map out post-purchase customer stages that influence repeat purchase and referral. McKinsey found that now two-thirds of the touchpoints during the active-evaluation phase of purchasing involve consumer-driven activities such as Internet reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family – post-purchase consumer activity not accounted for in the funnel.
Post-purchase stages are now more important to consumers and marketers.
This social media fueled feedback loop has shifted power from seller to buyer. Search and social has enabled people to create their own paths to purchase via dozens or even hundreds of touchpoints. Google has found that no two journeys are exactly alike. The consumer is at the center of their own unique customer journey. Derek Thompson in Hit Makers describes this consumer revolution saying, “The gatekeepers had their day. Now there are simply too many gates to keep.”
The marketer has lost control over much of the information about their products and services. What’s more, the brand messages they do create are less trusted than content created about the brand by consumers. Edelman reports that 74% of consumers use one more advertising avoidance strategies and 63% trust what influencers say about brands much more than what brands say about themselves.
This doesn’t mean consumers don’t want marketing and marketers have lost all influence. Salesforce State of Marketing report indicates 79% of customers are willing to share data in exchange for contextualized engagement, and 88% will do so for personalized offers. Its no longer about being a gatekeeper it about joining the community of consumers who already talking about your brand.
Customers today demand connected journeys through more personalize marketing.
Salesforce research has found 84% of consumers say being treated like a person, not a number is very important to purchase decisions. And 70% say connected processes, such as seamless handoffs, situation specific engagement, and needs anticipation, are important to their customer journey. In other words, consumers are looking for relationships. We need to put the “social” back in social media.
Many experts have seen this coming and describe the shift in various ways. Mark Schaefer in Marketing Rebellion calls for human-center social media marketing. Joseph Jaffe argued for conversational marketing and a move from corporate centric to customer centric marketing. Seth Godin says marketing now needs to be relevant not loud. Shoving declining mass advertising into the top of a disappearing sales funnel is making less and less sense.
Consumer engagement is key in a new customer centered buyer journey.
In our digital era the marketing funnel is more like a circular system. The consumer is at the center controlling much of their own buyer journey while influencing other consumer’s on path to purchase. The marketer joins the conversation via engagement as a guide not a gate keeper. This can be seen in the marketing cycle illustrated below.
The customer journey no longer follows a linear path of predictable marketing tactics that move consumers down a funnel of awareness to purchase. A Facebook ad or blog post may appear in the consumer’s feed or search results to generate awareness or could be the touchpoint they engage with right before conversion. A customer service interaction with a current customer on Twitter may recruit a new customer as a customer rating and review on Amazon or Trip Advisor my influence a conversion.
The engagement in the middle of this marketing cycle can impact any part of the journey at anytime. Positive or negative interactions and comments can pull more customers in or push more customers out entering any stage of this new circular path to purchase. The customer is at the center of this journey, but the brand can still join in and help guide the path. Google research reveals a mixture of paid, owned and earned media is consumed via unique paths to purchase with dozens or even hundreds of touchpoints.
After purchase customers use the product or service, form an opinion and share that experience through social media. This user generated content (UGC) is found by perspective customers via search and social networks feeding back into the marketing cycle influencing their awareness, interest, consideration and conversion stages.
Marketers must shift from a control mindset to one of engagement.
Seth Godin says to be seen marketers must learn to see. This begins with social media listening. The focus is on creating meaningful and relevant experiences at the appropriate time and place. The brand engages with potential customers through varied touchpoints along the journey from prepurchase awareness, interest and consideration to purchase conversion followed by postpurchase use, opinion and sharing.
These touchpoints become the tactics of social marketing strategy. A social media measurement plan can reveal which tactics and strategies are producing positive interactions pulling potential customers towards the next stage and which are creating negative experiences pushing them off the marketing cycle path to purchase.
HubSpot calls this moving from a funnel to a flywheel where the marketers role is to add force to the areas that have the most positive impact, and decrease friction in areas with the most negative impact. Doing so will increase size of your flywheel adding more customer promoters. A flywheel uses the momentum of your happy customers to drive referrals and repeat sales. It brings customer relationship management to social media marketing where your own customers become part of your sales force.
Engagement with the connected consumer can’t be one-size-fits-all.
The shift from marketing funnel to marketing cycle has left many marketers confused. Social Media Examiner’s Industry Report reveals that the top question social media marketers face today is how to best engage their audience. Uncertainty may come from trying to view the connected consumer as one audience.
Brian Solis argued that there is no one audience. A target audience is made up of audiences of audiences representing varying roles of the social consumer. In a marketing cycle you must reach the right person in the right stage and touchpoint with the right message. Solis says, ” It is our responsibility to assume the role of digital anthropologist and sociologist to understand the needs and wants of people within each network and to design programs around these discoveries.”
Uncertainty may also come from trying to meet these varying consumer needs with a one discipline team. Different team members from various departments are best suited for engaging with consumers in different buying stages. Marketers are great at brand building, PR pros are relationship experts, sales people know how to close, and customer service gets problems solved. Marketers can lead, but to succeed social needs to be a cross-discipline team of marketing, sales, public relations, advertising, corporate communications, customer service and human resources.
This uncertainty and needed new approach can be seen in the executive summary of the latest Salesforce State of Marketing report. It identifies how marketing is evolving around the new connected customer. In this new model “marketing becomes the cross-functional glue of customer experiences.” Data unification, real-time engagement and consumer trust becomes the goal. Artificial intelligence (AI) offers an opportunity to help make it happen through personalized marketing.
Trust is a deal breaker in buying decisions.
In a recent Trust Barometer report 67% of consumers said they would stop buying from companies they don’t trust. How do you build trust? Edelman’s research found that the best way to build trust is to lead with peer (UGC, influencers, etc.) and amplify with owned, social and paid. In other words, to build customer relationships marketers must remove themselves from the command of a marketing funnel and put consumers in the center of a new marketing cycle. Trust starts with listening in a customer centered social strategy.
Trust built through connected consumer relationships has its rewards. Edelman also found consumers that trust brands reward them by buying their brand first (53%), staying loyal (62%), advocating (51%) for the brand and defending (43%) the brand. Social media and the connected consumer disrupted the sales funnel where marketing people played gatekeeper, but marketers still play an important role as guide in the new customer empowered journey.
There is a lot of content created on the internet each day. Jeff Schultz from Micro Focus estimated that everyday 656 million tweets are sent, 4 million hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, 67.3 million Instagram posts are created, and 4.3 billion Facebook messages are posted. How do you stand out so that your one in a billion piece of content gets noticed, liked, and shared?
What does research say about engagement?
Abigail Posner, head of Google’s Agency Strategic Planning team, began the Engagement Project with a team of anthropologists, psychologists and digital content creators to investigate this question. They were curious about memes and wondered what makes one idea more likely to be shared on a mass scale over the internet versus other pieces of content.
Posner’s research found that people are attracted to the fascinating familiar that sets off our imagination. The most compelling content is usually everyday moments framed in a different way or juxtaposed for a new perspective. That’s because our brains love synaptic play – when random components in our mind form a synapse. The ideas that engage bring unrelated facts or images together in a childlike way send us on a voyage of discovery.
For example, seeing a cat riding a surfboard produces creative joy. It is a remarkable story we want tell others. For Robert Dollwet it is also a relevant marketing message. His cat Didga’s surfing and skateboarding tricks have attracted nearly 14 million YouTube views advertising his pet training business. Now only do we enjoy Didga, but we want to share that feeling with others. The content becomes a little gift forming a bond between the sender and receiver.
Why create engaging ideas?
When a company sends compelling content built around relevant brand messages a bond is formed with consumers that could lead to further action. This is valuable considering social media professionals spend most of their time (60%) on content development and most marketers consider engagement to be their top measurement of social media ROI. Constantly producing engaging content for the always-on social media consumer requires a lot of creativity. Can you regularly produce the fascinatingly familiar? Yes, follow the creative process.
I didn’t know there was a creative process for most of my career. But once I discovered it my ideas became more creative and more consistent. I first read about the creative process in the book A Technique for Producing Ideas, published in 1940 by James Young Webb. Webb was an advertising hall of fame copywriter who famously wrote an ad for women’s deodorant that was credited with increasing sales 112%.
Because of Webb’s creative and business success people kept asking him where his ideas came from. He didn’t know, but he was curious enough to find out. Through self-reflection he uncovered a five-step process for creating ideas. Remarkably, aspects of this same process have been described by other creative people in vastly different fields of interest from fine artists and writers to researchers and engineers.
To produce fascinating ideas follow these steps:
Gather Raw Material: Gather specific knowledge or data about the product or service and consumer. Go deep. Any relationship between the two could lead to an idea. Also gather continuous general knowledge about the world around you from art to zombies. The more raw material the increased chance for novel ideas.
Play Matchmaker: Take different bits of this raw information and view it from different angles. Then try to bring two facts together to see how they fit looking for a relationship. There is no wrong combination. Don’t ask “why?” Ask “why not?” Write every possibility down. When you get tired keep going. This is when you can move past expected ideas.
Forget About It: Make no direct effort to work on the problem. This may be difficult, but you must build in time to drop the entire subject and work on something else or play a game. Go for a run, to the movies or a concert. Listen to music or cook. Put the problem out of your conscious mind so that your unconscious mind can get to work.
Birth of the Idea: This stage happens when suddenly an unexpected realization of the solution comes to your conscious mind. Out of seemingly nowhere (your subconscious) the idea will appear. It could be in the middle of the night or in the shower. Be sure to write it down.
Optimize the Idea: Now it is time to compare the idea to the facts of the problem or the conditions of the question. The idea will not be perfect. It takes an open mind and patience to refine it. Get feedback from others and adjust. Shape and develop the idea into practical usefulness.
This process applies across all disciplines from art and new product development to business generation and content creation. The process itself is simple, but it is hard to follow. That is why more people aren’t producing more creative ideas. Most adults have lost touch with their creative mindset. A lifetime of experiences from school to work have set up barriers to creativity. Unfortunately most of us have spent our lives learning how to be uncreative.
Research says most people were their most creative as kids.
To understand creative potential Dr. George Land and Beth Jarman devised a test to measure creativity in NASA scientists. Wondering why some adults are creative and others are not, they gave the same test to 1,600 five-year-old children. The test challenged the kids to come up with different and innovative ideas to solve problems.
Amazingly, 98% were in the genius category of creative imagination. They retested the same children later and by the time they were 15, only 12% were at the same level. The same test given to adults results in only 2% scoring at the creative genius level. Reflecting on the results Land wrote, “What we have concluded is that non-creative behavior is learned.”
Innovation author and speaker Paul Stone explains that to a kid every problem can be solved. We grow up by learning what cannot be done through rules, laws, regulations and bosses who don’t want ideas, but only want us to get the job done on time. As adults we learn not to ask questions and only give the “right” answers. Yet when we tell our children they can’t do something they say, “Why not?”
Evian Roller Babies as an example.
I wasn’t involved in creating this example, but I imagine they followed the creative process I followed hundreds of times in my career. (1) They gathered specific knowledge of Evian water, their target audience’s generation, how drinking water keeps you young and general knowledge of the world from music and movies to trends and news. (2) They worked really hard trying different elements together and came up with a lot of “okay” ideas. (3) They got tired and stopped working on the project. They played pool, went to a movie or their kid’s soccer game. Perhaps they went to a park and saw people rolling skating. (4) It didn’t look like they were working on the important Evian project, but their subconscious mind was hard at work.
Then, a day or two later the idea popped into their head of rolling skating babies. It was written down with other ideas and (5) a fascinatingly familiar idea was born and refined to deliver the right product benefit message with a nostalgic spin for the target audience and developed into one of the most viral ad videos of all time. Putting babies in adult situations under the tagline #LiveYoung sparked a 10 year campaign for Evian that only ended recently in favor of a new influencer campaign in the U.S.
The creative process is about unlearning everything that is not possible and exploring every possibility from every angle. It is about asking the “naïve” questions seemingly only kids are able to ask like why couldn’t a cat surf or why can’t babies roller skate? Thus, the secret to creating engaging one in a billion content is following the creative process. It forces you to be your creative genius five-year-old self again, if only for a while.
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