Digital Intent, Behavioral Targeting, and Relationships

Intent is the new black.

I was at a dinner in New York City hosted by Human 1.0 the other night. We were there to learn about Big Data and a big part of the conversation around the table shifted to talking about intent.

While social technology has given us effective ways to express our “likes”, often of things we know and have done, it has yet to address the other side of the interest graph — the things we discover either trough trusted recommendations and reviews or on our own.

These are the wants — items we want to buy, read, or listen to/experience at some point in the future.

Digital intent, behavioral targeting, and relationships

Social data is having a disruptive impact on the advertising and marketing technology industries. Right now, the conversation and tools are revolving around optimizing our current understanding of personalization.

Making things custom, like a Seville Row suit, has gotten cheaper and simpler. Simple is not the same as easy when there are many competing priorities in marketing departments.

Big data is opening a whole new can of worms in other directions, like privacy, and disliked behavioral targeting practices around pricing.

We are nonetheless at the dawn of a new era in relationships brought about by social technologies. This creates a whole new dimension to the saying — wherever you go, there you are. It's valid for brands as it is for individuals.

Saturday Three

The three stories that caught my eye this week are:


1This post on Why Digital Intent Matters by Taylor Davidson was born as an article on his premium newsletter and he's since filled out some of the details. Mining intent is the new gold rush. Davidson says:

The usage of “intent” is a powerful conceptual idea, and while it still appears to be more of a buzzword than something people really know how to leverage, we’re coming closer to seeing it have a real impact on marketing and advertising.

The real applications of the web’s intent engines for marketing and advertising are still to come. Matching intent engines to advertising and ecommerce is a big opportunity, and I believe that’s one reason why we’ve seen millions flow into the ecommerce space.

It’s never been possible to leverage intent in this way, at this scale, across so many different products and services, worldwide. And that’s why “intent” is something we’re going to hear a lot more about.

Intent as direction resonates. It will be interesting to see how marketers deal with overwhelm and the intent they select to influence action.


2What are merchants' dreams made of that become nightmares for consumers? According to The Next Web, Behavioral Pricing. Sensationalist titles aside, there are some interesting thoughts in the article:

We’ve already seen online merchants make preliminary attempts at this.

[…] When the New York Times unveiled its digital subscriptions, it decided to charge $15 per month to subscribe on your clunky old Blackberry, but $20 per month to subscribe on your iPad.

Yet, it doesn’t cost the New York Times more to deliver content to the iPad. Instead the assumption was that you, the owner of a $500 tablet, would be more willing to pay than your average smartphone user.

You hardly need to be online to see examples of dynamic pricing. It has already been adopted by sports teams and entertainment shows, for example Broadway. However, that was more around product supply/demand than around people wants or intent. We won't mention airlines here… it is, after all, a two-way street.


3Ignore the human element of marketing at your own peril say Bob Garfield and Doug Levy on AdAge. Demographics, which much of mass media was focused on, are about similarities, while people are about difference. And social technologies bring the promise of helping those brands willing to go there strengthen bonds with their customers.

In the Relationship Era, the big winners will be in Sustainable, whose habitues typically spend little on advertising — because they don't need it. By contrast, indifference is expensive and hostility unaffordable. 

[…] Clearly, those whom we trust and adore, we trust and adore a lot. It's human nature. Luckily, while the digital revolution was undermining Mass it was also supercharging human nature.

Social media have taken the stolid, dependable old tortoise — word-of-mouth — and transformed it into countless hares, multiplying like, well, hares. And they're zipping around not just the beauty parlor and the saloon but Facebook, Twitter and Yelp at the speed of "send."

Levy is the CEO of Imc2, the agency that commissioned survey data on trust and plotted it against market share for leading consumer marketers on page 2 of the article.

The results in the trust/transactions quadrant show brands in four categories: reluctant, limited, emotional, and sustainable.

Under sustainable are Apple, Costco, Southwest Airlines and, in the upper-most-right-hand corner, Amazon.


Will you save this article with the intent to read it later? There are tools to do that, which is part of the big data dump that is about to submerge marketers. 

No matter how you slice it, execution is about relationships — connecting ideas and people is key to meaning and superior performance.

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