Can We Target And Optimize For People's Values?

Much of the technology behind behavioral targeting has been based on answering the question, "What will people do next?"  Based on a set of demonstrated actions, which segment of people in an addressable audience is most likely to take the next action a marketer needs. As first reported months ago in this space , an interesting alternative targeting approach from Resonate tries to understand better the "why" that motivates a group of people to do things. The company tries to match advertisers with audience based on values -- not on intent or demographics or any of the other usual suspects. It is looking for the motives that drive behaviors, the "why" behind people choosing products and services. 

Resonate just introduced a Brand  Values Optimization product that promises to analyze the underlying values that drive shifts in brand metrics to see why people are or are not responding to campaigns. According to CEO Bryan Gernert, the methodology behind this value-based targeting was developed first for political activism -- to target that independent middle group of swing voters who vote on values they associate with candidates rather than on ideology. The company initially tried using classic behavioral tracking techniques to see whether past actions somehow could correlate with values. But Resonate discovered that "the only way to figure out what people value is to ask them," Genert says.



A sample of users respond to long-form surveys that try to address what motivates them. Generally it is a matter of having to offer people ideas to which they respond. For instance, one survey Gernert shared with us invites people to associate the products and services they look for with motives like making them feel they have achieved milestones in their lives or making them feel at peace with their lives and who they are as persons. Getting at honest expressions of personal value is not as easy as just asking people what they regard as important because respondents often tell a questioner or even a form what they think is the right thing to say or what they think the other person expects to hear. "We have to ask in three or four different ways," to get at reliable responses, according to Gernert.

There are no predefined segments in the targeting approach, but there are 3,000 attributes in the database, some of which are values-based. When a credit card company was looking to introduce a new product it came in looking for a rough target of college-educated people with household incomes above a certain level. But from looking at the messaging in the creative, Resonate could associate the campaign with people who might be attracted to a low annual percentage rate and valued protecting their financial security. Then, from tracking the people online who they surveyed, Resonate could see that this audience visited publishers like Bloomberg, Daily Green and bizjournals.

Once the campaign flies, Resonate can look at the performance, and eventually the lift and awareness, and see what audiences with which values attributes are overindexed. In other words, in mid-course, marketers may see that a different set of values than expected are actually driving the most responsive audience. In the case of the credit card company, audiences that value convenience may be overindexing in the performance results - thus suggesting that this messaging theme should be prominent.

But can any product be targeted against values? And can you use an understanding of audience values to optimize and tweak a campaign for a basic product? Are there values around bleach, for instance? In fact, Resonate did research for Clorox on these issues. Based on product messaging and an initial understanding of the values of the target audience, the proposed target was moms who buy household cleaners that help them protect their families from a company they trust. The key attributes included being produced by a company moms trusted and a product that benefited the family. These were layered on top of demographics and behavioral data that identified moms and people who buy cleansers. But that audience also shows other important attributes that could also be laid into the messaging. They were also 165% more likely to buy product that helped them feel good about themselves, and 114% more likely to buy home products that made them feel at peace with their lives. 

Associating a bleach brand choice with inner peace may seem like a stretch, but Gernert and Resonate have found a number of fascinating affinities in drilling their data sets. For instance, they'e found that dads are 64% more likely than non-dads to stop buying a product after there's been a recall. And heavy social media users spend less than half the amount of money online as light social media users. Although my guess is that heavy social media users spend less time doing just about anything - except living on social media. 

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