Is Understanding Human Behaviour the Key to Todays Marketing Success

For decades now marketers and communicators have been fixated with understanding and segmenting target audiences and delivering key messages and brand/product positioning which fits the needs of these distinct groupings. All with the desired impact of changing a behaviour in that target group.

As a modern marketer faced with the opportunities and challenges the digital future presents to us  I am now more convinced than ever that truly understanding human behaviour is actually much more important than some of the classic segmentation practices of the past.

Most research out there and all my anecdotal evidence confirms that over the next few years, due to the changes in search, social and other digital technologies we will all be producing more content than ever before.

There is a serious debate raging on whether companies should concentrate on quality versus quality content which I will not expand upon here but one thing is for sure, wherever you stand on that debate, in order for your content to be successful you will need to understand the consumption behaviour of your target audiences for your content to truly be effective.

This is where I think we can get some help from Thomas Baekdahl, the Danish digital media analyst who advises some of the largest media houses around on their digital transition. Last year he published an analysis entitled “The Five Behaviours That Define the News Business”. Although this work was intended to help publishers with their content and business model challenges I believe the same thinking can also help brand marketers.

Here are these behaviours.


The Break

This is all about the immediacy of our mobile devices. We see this behaviour exerted hundreds of time a day, the urge to check Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter. People here have no intent, no interest and are not in the decision making frame of mind. This is truly the place for cats, listicles or any other Buzzfeed type content. For brand marketers this is the place for your so called “top of the funnel” content which amuses, entertains and draws people to your brand without much expectation of a return or continuing action.

The Update

The behaviour people are exerting when on the update is similar to the break in that we see this behaviour many times a day and there is no set time allocated to this activity but that’s where the similarities end. Here people have a highly specific intent and with the expectation of a high degree of return. Often realtime news events are the focus of this activity and this has traditionally been the ground of leading national or regional news outlets.

This place is hard for brands to cater for unless they are addressing a crisis situation or are piggybacking on a news event some times called “news jacking.” It is possible to make for brands to make headway here but more often that not many end up letting their commercial desires get the better of them and being more counterproductive than engaging. Leave targeting this behaviour to the news professionals.

The Lookup

The next behaviour is the Lookup which is the first behaviour which sees people actively choosing to invest time to get the information they need. Of course this is territory of search and in particular Google but media companies that do well here are the likes of Bloomberg where people go to get specific information on a company or event. The audience size is much smaller than  for that of the break or the update but it has high intent which often makes it more profitable.

For brand marketers if you have successfully established yourself as an authority on a particular topic or area of interest and have designed your digital assets to cater for all those search queries and questions that arise from your prospects then you will do well here. This behaviour truly is a big opportunity for brands.

The Story & Passion

Where the lookup is designed around people’s intent, the story and passion is designed around peoples interests. From an editorial point of view the Economist is a good example of catering to this type of behaviour, delivering in-depth coverage and analysis on a particular issue. Content and experience here should mimic the old world of print journalism.

This behaviour is to my mind the biggest opportunity for brands. If you have clearly defined your niche, know which specific personas you are targeting and have managed to establish authority in this area you will succeed here. If you look at the B2C area Red Bull do this well in adventure sports but if you look at the B2B arena a brand like Adobe has done great work in the niche of design for marketing with the likes of

As we enter the era where more content than ever will be produced, distributed and consumed it is so important to nail your niche and give them amazing value in the form of your content.

The Recline

The final behaviour is recline, where people consume media to relax. This used to be the old world of print journalism where people would make a cup of something hot and sit down in their armchair with their newspaper. More likely today they will sit down with their tablet or Smart TV and binge watch TV series from Netflix, HBO or a domestic broadcasters streaming service in an attempt to escape from everyday reality.

If you are a brand marketer and you end up here then your are very lucky. Perhaps some will make amazing documentaries about their niche or will play the sponsored content game in TV and film but for many particularly in B2B this is a hard behaviour to target.

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So there you have it, five behaviours to think about when creating and distributing your content. I believe you should still carry out the traditional segmentation exercises. You should still design and test your marketing and loyalty funnels and the associated customer journeys that goes along with these.  All these exercises are still very valuable for the modern marketer and communicator but just remember to add a dose of human behaviour thinking to the mix.

We are all adapting to this digital reality in different ways and I believe we will still see many revolutions and counter revolutions to new and emerging technologies and platforms. At the end of the day a behavioural change in favour of your brand is what you want to see so you better consider behaviour when you design, deliver and measure your marketing.




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