As easy as it is to imagine that someone's online behavior tells marketers everything they need to know, it often does not provide any real clues about what they are really thinking. Marketing Daily asked Bryan Gernert, CEO of the Reston, Va.-based Resonate Networks, to tell us why online psychographics matter more than they used to.
Q: Most marketing decisions get made on metrics like clicks and demographics. Why isn't that always enough?
A: Just because you see someone go into a Starbucks doesn't mean you know why he or she did it. We call what we do attitudinal targeting -- we deliver audiences based on their values, beliefs and attitudes, not just demographics. The idea is to find out the "why" behind their behavior, so we do tens of thousands of surveys tied to online activity. We've got more than 1,000 attributes, based not just on those values, but also how engaged they are with certain topics, as well as media consumption. Besides political clients -- including candidates like Scott Brown, Meg Whitman and Tim Pawlenty -- we've worked with such brands as Verizon, Coca Cola, and Estee Lauder.
Q: Why doesn't it make sense for a brand like Estee Lauder just to look for potential customers on beauty sites, or department stores?
A: For Lauder, we were looking for women who want to feel more attractive, and also brand name shoppers looking for a good deal, ages 35 to 64. The question becomes: Where do people like this spend the most time, and where's the best place to reach them? In this case, finding these women on beauty or shopping sites wouldn't work that well. We learned these types of women like Ellen 64% better than Oprah, Cooking.com 72% more than Overstock.com, and prefer Woman's Day 73% more than the "Today Show."
Q: Is that true in politics?
A: Yes, we had a candidate campaigning on an anti-labor platform. But the best audience wasn't on political sites -- it was Frommers.com, a travel Web site, and bobvilla.com, which focuses on home improvements.
Q: Why should marketers pay attention to this type of research?
A: We think values change fast -- more quickly than most marketers know. Going into the recession, there was a period when many consumers said they were willing to pay more for a product if it was green, for example. That's not true anymore. And demographics can be too narrow. Take Walmart, which has focused so much of its efforts on women, and people with lower incomes -- the brand's core message is protecting your family's finances by saving money. But they've missed a huge opportunity -- 43% of visitors are men, who also have that value. And so do plenty of people who have a higher income.
Q: So demographics aren't important?
A: Oh, they are. For example, our research has shown that there is a significant demographic difference between Gen Y versus Gen X when it comes to altruism. While Gen Y does have a more compassionate view of society, it doesn't translate into what they buy. They're between 30 and 60% more likely to support alt energy, civil rights, gay rights and animal rights than consumers who are 35 and over, but they're less likely to buy products based on these issues.