Explainer: Micro-Targeting


What It Is: The term “micro-targeting” first emerged in industry lingo from the political arena and referred to campaigns which focused on a few salient characteristics of various audience segments and used those elements to create smaller segments which allowed marketers to have a more intimate portrait of their audience. The famous “Nascar Dad” phrase was a product of micro-targeting research. These small audience segments provide greater detail on audience make-up and behaviors than larger audience segments, and this data is often referred to as “granular” insights. These insights speak to consumer motivations, affinities for certain brands and sometimes the reasoning behind purchase behaviors, such as positive or negative associations with other products or ideas.

Why It Matters: Micro-targeting provides valuable insights that help make long-term strategy-building intuitive. Audience data may tell you that most of your targeted 13-year olds think that a clothing brand isn’t “sick” enough to be seen wearing it at school, but micro-targeting will explain what sick really means and why the brand doesn’t measure up. Data from micro-targeting can help marketers discern between actionable and extraneous insights culled from the massive data flows that originate from multiple sales and social conversation channels. Micro-targeting allows a marketer to tailor a campaign to a specific audience without compromising the overall brand message.
Who Is Using It: Most major brands use some form of micro-targeting to build global strategy. Messages geared towards “moms” and “tweens” from the same brand are the product of micro-targeting research. Some well-known companies providing micro-targeting research are Pubmatic, Admeld and Motista.
Assessment: Granular insights are essential ingredients in any effective data-driven strategy, but the core of audience segmentation practice has to be built on aggregate data, the multiple variables of context, branding and geography. Striking a balance between portraits of smaller consumer groups and large statistical pools is the eternal quest of marketers and data analysts alike, but the answers are never as simple as a single “tag” such as “yoga mom” or “Nascar dad.” Yoga moms may recycle religiously, but they might also sneak off and buy a carton of frozen pizza. It’s the job of marketers to get to her before she changes her mind at the checkout.

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