| May 04, 2015
Never assume, they say, because it makes an ass out of you and me, and all too often it seems to me that marketers are making huge assumptions about their digital audience, in spite of all the data available to them. Too often that data is interpreted through the lens of the marketer’s own goals and beliefs, not those of the people whose behavior they are trying to influence.
Observing physical behavior can tell you a lot about a person: age, gender, and even likely occupation (or so I was trained in the dim and distant days of street intercept surveys). Observation can also tell you a lot about a shopper’s mindset: are they confident in their choice, just browsing, or killing time? Interpretation of observed physical behavior draws on millennia of social interaction that allows us to make judgements based on non-verbal characteristics.
Unfortunately, when it comes to digital behavior all our age-old ability to interpret who someone is and why they are acting the way they do is taken away. We see the behavior, but do not know who it is that is exhibiting that behavior never mind why. Take, for example, the use of device as a means to segment the digital audience. It is a convenient way to target an audience, but can lead to huge assumptions being made about who is doing what and why.
It is commonly assumed that “Gen X” are digital natives, happy to do everything on their smartphone. It is easy to assume, therefore, if you want to target a younger audience mobile advertising is a good choice. Now, it is true that, in general, device usage varies from generation to generation, but it is also true that device usage varies by task. Research conducted by Millward Brown Digital finds that Gen X still reach for their laptops depending on the product category being researched, the importance of the task, and the time available.
Quoted in the Admap article Joline McGoldrick, Research Director at Millward Brown Digital, states,
"What the data demonstrates is that even with our advanced knowledge of digital today, advertisers and marketers can't make assumptions about how various demographics and targets are using digital devices and mobile to access content.”
You will guess that I agree with Joline. The truth is that there are many of Gen X who are less digitally savvy than many boomers, and neither group can be assumed to use one device for every task. Do you agree with Joline and I or do you have another perspective? Please share your thoughts.