I’ll have what she’s having

Last week I went to a fascinating talk by Mark Earl’s basically paraphrasing his latest book “I’ll have what she’s having” – mapping social behaviour.

In the first place it reminded us of the reassuringly familiar human condition –  we are social animals that take cues from each other and behave in ways that align ourselves to certain cohorts, be that through copying behaviour or gravitating to like-minded people.  So far so human.

But he also put this into the modern context using a kind of check-list of ways to consider your marketing strategy in language that is pertinent to the modern “social media” space.

I put that in quotes because, having worked in data driven marketing for, ahem, some time, marketers have been creating and trying to influence ‘social’ groups for as long as I can remember. It’s just that we had to guess much more then than we need to now about what is a natural social group and what we can, as marketers, do to influence them.

In “my beginning” there were the Mosaic & Acorn Geo-demographic groupings created in the eighties that ruled. The entire premise of these was that ‘birds of a feather flock together’ – it’s just that at that time, the only data we had available to identify these birds of a feather were details about where they lived and a little bit of Census data. So we had to create our own proxy ‘social groups’ and direct our marketing at them, making sure our branding appeared where we thought they’d be, go through the media channels we thought they’d be consuming and make sure we made a wise choice between Corrie and Emmerdale Farm.  And in doing so, hope we prompted enough thought provoking messages about our product that they’d talk about it and recommended it to each other, socially.

The next evolution was taking what was then called attitudinal data (what they said in surveys), and behavioural data (what they bought) and grouping people in that way. The purchase data might seem to be an intrinsically individual, rather than social, form of targeting. The reality however is that much of our marketing was still based on groups, or segments, that we pushed messages out to, it’s just that we overlaid individually pertinent messages at key times.  We called it “CRM”, you’ve probably heard of it. It’s a bit passé now, we’re trying to jazz it up by using digital browsing behaviour.

And now, as well as knowing where they live and what they buy, we know who their friends are and what they think. Because they post it online. So we at Albion Cell are always looking to navigate more destinations for our communications strategy, and take more time understanding where we are pleasing or displeasing our consumers & potential consumers.  So it means that those who would traditionally think of themselves as brand marketers are getting to play in the data space too. And all power to them.

The clear approach in this book to Social Media marketing is great. I’m not going to tell you what it is, you have to buy the book for that – the man’s got to earn his living.

But, the principles of companies trying effect change on their consumers’ behaviour haven’t changed. Don’t flatter yourself that you’re creating a ‘social’ group  – in most instances, as a marketer or brand, you will almost always be using the data knowledge you gain to facilitate an online manifestation of an existing social group. Which is great – putting your brand behind a forum of likeminded people can only be good if they are on your side.  But at the end of the day, it’s just another means of making sure you are where they and their friends are, so they talk about you in a nice way. Like the Bistro/Wine bars of 1990’s.

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