Young, aspiring journalists quickly learn to get to the heart of a story. They’re taught to ask critical questions that naturally occur in a reader’s mind. Additional background and commentary can certainly follow, of course, but it’s those key questions—Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?—that matter most. And this priority never changes, despite evolving content, technology and delivery methods.
Marketing has also evolved, and what constituted “state-of-the-art” communication a few decades ago, and even a few years ago, has changed radically, particularly in the art of targeting. But, unlike journalists, our questions have changed, and the relationships between questions and answers have become increasingly more significant. Indeed, marketers and journalists now pursue the same key questions, but in search of two very different stories.
In the early stages of marketing’s development as a discipline, much of the emphasis focused on “who” – figuring out the right individuals to pursue. But that was only the starting point. Over time, marketing intelligence has evolved, and we now regularly apply knowledge and data to address all of journalism’s key questions at various levels:
• Who? Marketers regularly deploy a wide variety of demographics, lifestyle and household information to make sure we’re deploying messages to the right audiences. We’re even using advanced capabilities to understand and leverage extended family relationships and social networks to find connections to our best customers. Despite all the advances in marketing, who is still the key component.
• What? Use analytics and champion/challenger testing to offer the right products or brands, as well as using the right creative to resonate with the designated audience and achieve campaign goals. The science behind knowing what should be the focus of a communication to customers or prospects continues to improve.
• Where? Interesting distinctions can be made with respect to where, including proximity to retail branches for shopping, banking and much more. It is possible to strategically and tactically select populations when marketing for location-specific businesses. The use of where distinctions for someone’s home vs. someone’s business, and the overlapping opportunities between the two are also becoming more prevalent.
• When? In the early days of television, when was already emerging as an important dynamic. Knowing what times particular audiences were watching was meaningful from the beginning. With the emergence of e-mail as a channel, knowing when to send messages with respect to times of day, days of week, and more became critical. And increasing sophistication and longitudinal views of when have emerged with targeted stage-of-life offers and interactions.
• Why? Marketers have long known that having a child or moving from one place to another leads to new purchase behaviors. Understanding the why relationships between triggering events, signals of buying intentions and actual transactions has led to incredibly complex—but very powerful—optimization capabilities for marketers. And, more recently, why has extended into questions of reasons for particular audiences being especially interesting. Perhaps a certain customer is a frequent buyer and a heavy social networker. As a result, she’s a very exciting, attractive target for marketing messages.
• How? Perhaps the most exciting advances in the last few years have centered on how to reach busy consumers, and determining which channels are most effective for reaching individuals. Both established channels and emerging channels offer expanding opportunities for all of us to get our messages heard by consumers. But with channel expansion comes clutter and confusion, so answering how is not as easy as it seems.
The ability of marketers to intelligently answer these questions represents an enormous advance in its own right. But the part that is simultaneously exciting and challenging is dealing with the interconnectedness of the questions and answers.
Successfully answering who, what, where, when, why and how, and understand the relationships between those answers isn’t easy. As we strive together toward true optimization of channels, creatives, product offerings, timing and audiences, we’ll continue to expand our capabilities and gain new insights. And that, readers, is newsworthy indeed.
David Danziger is senior manager of innovation at Acxiom Corp.