As we've been covering in recent weeks here in Behavioral Insider, the decade-old basic art of behavioral targeting is being complemented in recent years by richer, deeper profiling of online audiences. Your browser history is not the sum total of who you are, what you value, or even the best determinant of where you will go next.
Packing other attributes around basic usage patterns is the new name of the game in targeting. Among the providers in this category, Resonate Networks tries to better understand how consumers view their world and the values they apply to purchases and the things they do online. The targeting that comes out of such a view can be counterintuitive. But like much of behavioral targeting, this stuff gets interesting when it uncovers unexpected affinities and behaviors among target audiences and gets marketers to think outside of the usual stereotype box.
For instance, if you are looking for environmentally conscious consumers, then you are much more likely to hit them on content that has little to do with conservation or environment. "Less than 1% of their time is spent on green content," says Resonate's CEO, Bryan Gernert. The company recently took a deep dive into the "green" consumer in a survey of over 11,000 users. Resonate uses a combination of rich surveying and behavioral and other online usage patterns to get a profile of who the target audience is and how they really behave online. The company defined green consumers as people who look for products with environmental benefits. Within that group the hardcore green consumer is the one who believes that corporations are responsible for the environmental impact of their products.
But you won't find these folks reading content about the environment that often. Yet the interesting thing about this audience is that they remain especially receptive to green-related product advertising when they are away from green content - or maybe more so. "From a performance perspective, these sites that do have the right audience outperform," says Gernert. Unrelated content that this same green audience also cares about can be the best context in which to plant an ad for a green product. Messaging around environmental attributes in a product actually might do particularly well in sports content, for instance, if that reader is green-aware. "It isn't competing with other green messaging," he says. That's where the targeted message has an opportunity to register and stand out. "What it really says is that if you reach an audience in places where they are highly engaged, they are more likely to respond to your ad," adds Gernert. The engagement in the context actually may be transferrable to an apparently unrelated ad message because the target and the level of engagement are both right.
Looking at the broader profile of the greens reveals some other surprises. In terms of age, despite the expectation that environmentalism is a youth-oriented issue, almost half (49%) in the category are age 45 or older. Hardcore greens skew even higher: 55% over 45. And it is this older segment that is not only most passionate about the issue, but also most willing to pay more for products with green attributes --and to drive farther to get them.
Which is not to say that green-conscious sites are to be avoided. But don't expect these consumers to flock to your branded site and put much faith in the corporate message. According to Resonate's profiling, 42% of this group goes to independent media sources for their product information, while 15% use social media like blogs, message bases and chat rooms. Ultimately, this kind of profiling becomes most useful when agencies and brand leverage the intelligence to affect marketing messages, not just targeting. Generally, this audience is more wary of information coming straight from the brand. It isn't easy being green... and convincing customers that you really are.