If your next big move is hyper-targeting, find a bigger move

Every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created. As consumers, our minute-by-minute behavior – sending texts, watching YouTube videos, checking Instagram, reading and responding to emails, downloading music, shopping online, and more – creates an abundance of data. Marketers could never effectively use it all. There’s certainly no shortage, and many find themselves challenged to uncover real insights.  

But then hyper-targeting was born. Nielsen recently reported that 53% of surveyed marketers cited “audience targeting” as their #1 2020 marketing priority. If your big marketing initiative this year is centered around hyper-targeting your core audiences, it might be something to reconsider.



The obvious reason:

Starting January 1st, the CCPA, or the California Consumer Privacy Act, went into effect, marking a substantial shift for consumer data collection.

For brands that are engaging in hyper-targeted marketing practices, the implications are great. Consumers, at the very least, will become more widely aware of the services and policies to which they consent. At worst, they’ll opt out completely. Regulation on this issue is nothing to play around with. Big data firms will face massive fines for non-compliance, and additionally, legislative action for data breaches.

I predict the current returns on hyper-targeting won’t fare well with this new regulation.


The less-obvious reason:

Valentine’s Day just passed. While it’s no Christmas, Americans were predicted to spend roughly $19.2 billion on gifts this year, each gift averaging $110. Additionally, one quarter of Americans were predicted to buy gifts for more than one partner. Yikes. The point is, there’s a lot of spending going on, and we’ve all sought out gift ideas from a friend or family member. It’s basic human behavior to want to learn from each other in order to make the right buying decision.

I’ll consult (and so will you) my word-of-mouth network to influence up to 50% of my purchases. Regardless of any CCPA risk, hyper-targeting is narrow-casting, and ignores the opportunity to gain positive spill effects from more broad marketing that will lead to word-of-mouth influences. While a 1-to-1 marketing approach in theory might seem logical, it misses on the fact that we, as consumers, don’t make buying decisions in a vacuum. The problem? These days everyone is on a quest to make data-driven marketing decisions. It’s been challenging to ignore the urge to place a misguided emphasis on targeting as a way to profitability.

Hyper-targeting will get you sales, I won’t argue that. Bottom of the funnel marketing isn’t exactly rocket science. But will it drive tomorrow’s sales? Marketers need to think about the impacts of influencers on buying decisions, as well as the fact that gaining mental availability, even with a consumer that is not yet in-market, isn’t a terrible thing.

As stated by Byron Sharp in his book How Brands Grow, “To grow, a brand needs to attract as many people as possible.” Notice Sharp doesn’t say attract as many people in your core demographic as possible.

Reach across multiple audiences increases awareness and mental availability. It increases familiarity and a propensity to consume. It reinforces buying decisions and strengthens loyalty as a byproduct. Focusing too much on only your immediate core consumer is a near-sighted approach that will limit both growth and longevity of your brand.

For a lot of brands, marketing is a dollar in, dollar out game. Don’t forget that returns can be generated from broader marketing, when done efficiently.