Interest based digital marketing: it’s metadata for storytellers

Interest-based digital marketing is the ‘metadata’ for storytellers in a data-driven world, writes Chris Tia, offering a way for brands to bridge the heart-mind divide.

It’s no longer enough that marketers tell their brand stories, they must know how, when and who they want to tell it to.

With 571 websites popping up every minute of every day, interest based digital marketing is an invaluable way for brands to channel their message, for breadth and depth of audience engagement.

While ‘big data’ has in many ways delivered on its promises, much of the work undertaken so far has been directed towards transaction efficiency goals. It has largely been about making it possible for products and services to be delivered to customers when, how and where it is desired – with as few opportunity costs as possible. While this makes perfect commercial sense, it is a vast distance from the deep engagement and loyalty that brands ultimately strive for.

Story-based marketing has been the fallback for many looking to inject a human element into the reams of hard discrete data. This human element is after all what makes people line up the night before just to be the first to get their hands on a new version of a smartphone, or pay a premium each year just for bragging rights to family, friends and co-workers.

The data underlying the ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ of transactions only paints a limited picture of the deeper ‘whys’ behind people’s passions and the impulses that drive them to champion one brand over another. The difficulty for many brand managers is how to reconcile what is inevitably qualitative, intuitive and variable, to the black and white world of today’s data driven marketing environment.

Interest-based digital marketing is a promising conduit for connecting these two diverse poles. A study by Google, Ogilvy and TNS found that consumers who went online to seek information on their interests and passions, versus those who merely sought entertainment or connections, were 70% more likely to buy something online in the past month and 1.6 time more likely to rate the product or service online at least once a week.

With most social networks and online platforms increasingly providing access to such information, the potential for targeting with precision has never been greater.

Using interest based digital marketing is, however, not without its challenges. Brand storytellers that want to be successful must:

1. Communicate With Authenticity.

There is no substitute for authenticity and brands must understand what they represent and why they do what they do. With so much content now available online and an ever shortening consumer attention span, a “me too” approach is easily discernable.

2. Apply Realistic Goals & Time Frames

While digital marketing now affords brand marketers with a higher volume and granularity of data, KPIs such as Customer Life Time Value (LTV) as a yardstick for brand marketing ROI is still as valid as ever.

3. Create a Digital Feedback Loop

Data channels to gather customer behaviour are likely to already exist in many organisations but perhaps used for another purpose (such as digital remarketing) or are spread across multiple customer experience touch-points. Tapping into these can provide a fount of tactical information to help develop and fine tune campaigns.

In the big data arms race, it is easy to forget that you need to win a customer’s heart as well as their mind. Interest-based digital marketing offers a way for brands to bridge this divide, as the ‘metadata’ for storytellers in a data-driven world.

Christopher Tia is principal of Lean Prototype Machine, a firm specialising in helping businesses with digital innovation and marketing.