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April 26, 2007

The Promise of Hyper-Targeting

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Rex Briggs is moderating this morning’s The Promise of Hyper-Targeting session with speakers Scott Symonds (AKQA, Inc.), Heidi Browning (Fox Interactive Media) and Simon Atkins (adidas America).

Or at least I hope that’s what’s happening in this room. Drew Ianni went ahead and changed the room assignments again on me so I’m not entirely sure I’m in the right place. I really wish they’d put the session title on the big projector looming in front of me so I know if I’m safe or if I have to kick off the heels and hightail it across the convention center, taking down slow-walking pedestrians in my path. My tummy is burning with anxiousness.

I feel better now. Rex Briggs just walked into the room so I must be in the right place. I’m going to stop worrying now and enjoy my organic Z bar granola bar. I heart snacks.

Rex starts things off by asking the panelists to introduce themselves and share with the audience their favorite color.

Scott’s favorite color is UPS brown, Simon and his cute accent tell us his favorite color is red and Heidi ignores the color question altogether. She’s no fun. (My favorite color is blue.)

[30 minutes later: Heidi finally admits her favorite color is red. You can now all sleep tonight.]

The history of online marketing has been direct response focused so people have been chasing that. We need a new model that’s about finding affinities. There’s a tendency today to be redundant and chase the higher response rate. You’re not generating the interest.

Simon says (hee!) Adidas has always developed programs around targeting. They’ve now matured into where they’re looking at hyper targeted programs. Today Adidas is everywhere, they’re not just on the sports field; they’re reaching into high fashion, high activity and to everyday consumers.

[Note: I love that Simon is rocking the white Adidas sneakers today. Way to represent, Simon!]

Rex questions the panelists on the future of hyper targeting.

Heidi answers that hyper-targeting is the next evolution of targeting technology. It’s based on user expressed information. She talks about MySpace and how people log on everyday to tell people about themselves. The difference between hyper-targeting and behavioral targeting is that the latter can’t see the nuances between the segments (enthusiasts vs buyer). With hyper-targeting, advertisers can create those specific segments. You can find the people who define themselves by Jeep and look at their common interests. What are their emotional needs? What other brands do they identify with? What are their demographics? How can we find other people like that? How can we target them? Hyper-targeting allows you to distinguish between the different stages within the conversion funnel and market directly to people in those different stages.

Rex asks how quickly marketers are going to adopt this kind of behavior.

A lot of marketers realize that this is where the world is going, but others are resistant. They don’t want to change the way they’re thinking about their customers. Simon says you fundamentally need to have a shift in the way the marketing department thinks. Once you pass that hurdle, there is a great opportunity to be had by focusing on a very specific target. Start thinking about the upstream. Who is the product really for? You should have a clear definition in mind.

Scott thinks Simon is simplifying this just a bit. Not every brand is as likable as Adidas. As an ad agency, you need to steer and cultivate that. He likes the idea of using brand evangelists for projecting your brand. MySpace is a really good litmus test for an advertiser or a brand. When Scott talks to a brand he wants to find out what personality trait/utility is going to make them likable? Why would people pick you over someone else?

The opt-in factor is the hottest part of hyper-targeting. It all starts with relevant messaging. Users don’t mind advertising as long as it’s relevant and authentic to them. People don’t want brands to advertise to them; they want them to be their friends. (Aw.) One of the ways to do that is to use hyper-targeting to provide relevant messages and bring them to interesting places. With hyper-targeting you can go out and say, hey, we know you’re a friend of someone who likes X, why don’t you come and try it out? You have to combine hyper-targeting with community.

Rex brings up the community vs. control issue again.

Scott acts as the voice of reason and says that people will take these things and do what they like but you can control the toolbox if you make it compelling. Ideally, you have a brand people like. The surer you are of your fan base, the more open you can be with these things. Brands have a responsibility and we need to address that.

We’re once again talking about MySpace. Heidi calls it a living, breathing focus group for brands. Marketers can see how users want to be communicated with. What brands/messages are they gravitating towards? Learn to speak their language and give them what they want.

Scott says consumers being in control is not a new concept. People will be blogging about brands whether they like it or not. The message and conversation is there no matter what. Just accept that and join in. MySpace is amplifying this discussion. It’s something that’s sponsored, endorsed and pushed.

The friend concept is something marketers are beginning to get their head around. What’s interesting about the "friend" analogy is that friends are there through the good and bad. Your brand has to be there for users. People like to have that feeling of exclusivity. That’s how you draw them into a long term friendship and relationship.

Are there some products where hyper-targeting doesn’t work, Rex asks? Toilet paper, for example?

The panel says that it’s up to the marketer to understand who they are and figure out how they can present themselves. What is their persona? You need to determine if social networking is applicable for their target base.

Rex: If I’m a marketer and I have that community site, how do you find people who aren’t yet engaged with your brand? How do I get in front of them?

Heidi says that’s the future of hyper-targeting. You need completely customizable advertising segments. You can plug in your demographics’ social/emotional needs and use that to decide if what you’re planning is enough. Use the data to create a plan to ensure your message is relevant. You can also create "look-a-like" models. If you want to target soccer fans, what else are they into it? Maybe they like yoga and pizza. The last thing to do is talk to your brand’s influential people and engage them early on and get them talking about you as their friend. That’s how you take a whisper and turn it into a yell.

The lesson for the day: Stop whispering and go make friends. Go. Now. Get out of here.

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