What Publishers Should Learn From Brands

Earlier this week I attended IIeX Forums 2015, a two-day event that brings together consumer insights professionals, market research companies and technology firms. The first day focused on behavioral marketing; the second, techniques like neuroscience and biometrics, which can measure certain behaviors that happen before the consumer is even aware of it. Attention and emotion are two types of “nonconscious behaviors” that were discussed extensively.

Readers of this column may have previously heard me preach about the importance of considering some of these behaviors, especially as they pertain to the relationship that binds publishers, consumers and advertisers. I have written about the hidden cost of annoying ads and the negative impact of intrusive advertising. And, given the theme of this column, I have tried to emphasize how much these behaviors can influence the relationship between publishers and readers.



Sadly, I often get the impression that publishers -- and I am going to restrict my focus to digital publishers -- are forgetting that each of them is a brand, and each reader is a consumer of that brand’s product. Instead, many digital publishers seem eager to behave as mere intermediaries, whose main role is lead generation: finding potential consumers for the products offered by other brands.
Perhaps, then, I should not have been surprised that as I attended all the sessions and made the most of numerous networking opportunities, I did not meet or see a single person representing a publisher.

And yet, many of the sessions I attended would have been extremely interesting to digital publishers. Some presenters showed results of using eye tracking, a technique that can show with a high degree of accuracy where a person’s eyes are looking at each moment. The main users of this technology are brands, who deploy it to find out how consumers react to a product’s packaging, or to different elements of a video, or to the layout of an ad.

In one specific example, a company showed heat maps to demonstrate how different types of video ads affect the way a consumer processes information on the page in which the video is embedded -- including other nearby ads. Eye tracking is often complemented by other techniques that measure the consumer’s engagement and emotional response. In turn, these results can be mapped to more traditional marketing KPIs such as brand recognition and sales lift.

This kind of knowledge could be extremely valuable to publishers. Imagine doing a study to determine what ad formats and placements are most effective -- not for eliciting clicks, but for keeping readers engaged and yielding a positive emotional reaction; for building a long-term relationship of trust with the publisher; and ensuring that the reader finds and enjoys all the relevant content that the publisher has worked so hard to create.

The relevant technologies are becoming cheaper, more reliable and easier to use. Companies like Emotient, BrainJuicer, Bitbrain and many others showcased technologies that could quickly gather crucial information to help publishers figure out how to increase engagement and brand affinity; how to make better use of their real estate without cramming ads into every square inch of white space (and often on top of their content); and how to give readers the experience that they want.

It may be cynical of me, but it seems too often that the intermediaries in business transactions are the ones who only care about volume and margins, leaving the other parties to worry about such frivolous things as customer satisfaction. Hopefully some digital publishers will start to take their role as a brand more seriously and look into these promising technologies and approaches.

1 comment about "What Publishers Should Learn From Brands".
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  1. Ford Kanzler from Marketing/PR Savvy, November 12, 2015 at 12:43 p.m.

    Hard believing publishers of any sort don't get that their publication is a distinct brand. There's always been a fierce marketing war among publishers.
    Suggest the behavioral component has long been understood by many marketers. Trout & Reis' 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing published 21 years ago and their original Positioning - The Battle for your Mind, 1987, clearly demonstrate the psychological component. Its just that unfortunately, some marketers have chosen to ignore they're dealing with homo sapiens.

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