Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Leveraging Communities of Interest

What will replace demographics?

Since the first paid placement of a message advertisers have wanted to reach their audience.  They will pay a premium for access the right set of eyes, ears and sometimes noses.   When cross-tabulation of surveys and diaries was the norm the lowest common denominator across all potential advertisers was the use of demographics: things like age, gender, household status formed the basis of allocating media dollars.   For years the target for consumer package goods companies was:  Women Age 18-49 because they controlled the spending.   And to use the oft-repeated analogy, if they were a country they'd be twice the size of Facebook.  As a means of defining an audience, broad demographics are not terribly useful. 

So, in the current world of shared experiences and self-expression the question arises:  What is the right audience?   It is likely that the answer lies in either understanding one's interests or his needs.
  • Interests form the basis of connection and thus result in natural communities.   Communities of Interest are defined by a shared bond or entity that spans time and is indifferent to space.
  • Needs form the basis of support and thus produce help via recommendations or solutions to a problem. 
Clearly the two can overlap as in the case of support forums where it is likely that a few passionate participants help a lot of 'newbies.'

Defining a Community of Interest can be done externally - group all the people who cook - or internally - group people based on their content consumption and connections.   Both methods have their strengths and weaknesses.   In the former case, we know precisely why a person is in a community - but they don't.   In the latter case, we know these are communities - but we're not precisely sure how it relates to our brand positioning and promise.

If we had identifiable communities of interest that could be linked with our own customers, imagine what we might do as marketers.
  • Develop personae based on the joint behavior of shopping and interaction in order to better understand.
  • Develop communication strategies based on content consumption and product usage in order to be relevant.
  • Develop product features and offers that resonate with the job that needs to be done in order to be more successful.
All these ideas require rethinking our markets.  As a case in point General Mills is calling for the end of demographics for media buying based on the integration of media consumption and actual purchase behavior. 

Common interests are the new demographics.  

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