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What Can Children Teach Us About the Future of Marketing?

Naira Musallam, PhD • 6 Jun 2018

One big lesson and what it means for our future. 

A gathering among friends is taking place at someone’s home. While the adults catch up over food and drinks their children, ages 2-4, watch television together in the living room.

Suddenly, one of the children begins to cry. When the mother arrives, the child gestures towards the TV, indicating that something has gone wrong. 

As the mother rushes to fix the issue, she realizes that nothing appears to be wrong, at least from her perspective. It was just a regularly scheduled commercial break. 

As it turns out, this is the child’s first exposure to cable TV and, by extension, advertisements. Until now, the movies and shows she had consumed during her entire, albeit short, lifetime weren’t broken up by blocks of ad space pushing products to the masses.

The Rise of Streaming 

Aside from the story above being true, it also serves as an eye-opening realization of how the newest generation is growing up and viewing the world around them. Such a small moment may seem insignificant- but upon closer inspection, this scenario has sweeping ramifications for professionals in the marketing, advertising, research, and consumer insights fields. 

The behaviors and expectations of these children, in many ways, point towards the future of consumer behavior. Similarly, their actions send a strong message to professionals that there is not just an opportunity, but a need to adapt.  

And it’s not just the kids; consumers of all ages have changed irrevocably. How, when, and where we engage with brands has evolved. Because of this, our expectations as consumers have developed faster than a brand’s ability to keep up. And in case you need any evidence, think about your own relationship with the media you consume, the products you buy, and the brands you engage with. 

Waiting an entire week for the next episode of your favorite show? Yeah right. Think again.

time spent on netflixSo, what’s the lesson here?

When presented at the wrong time, even the best commercials and advertisements will just be a jarring annoyance.

The Interest Economy 

Not so long ago in a “pre-streaming” world, many of us were willing to accept those momentary interruptions, also known as commercial breaks. But you know what they say- “the times they are a-changin’”.  

We now live in an “interest economy,” where we choose only to engage with what we want when we want. Consumers today are glued to the content and activities that attract them. So, unless you curate your messaging to their specific interests or needs, your marketing campaigns will be considerably less effective, if not doomed to fail. 

To overcome these obstacles, brands must understand how each subset of consumers view the world and adapt their outreach accordingly.

How to Engage the Right Way

Now for the good news. It is possible to target multiple groups of consumers with the same product or service if you know how each group thinks, feels, and behaves. Simply put, you need to understand why they do what they do if you want to engage them in any meaningful way. These tips can help you do just that:

1. Get to Know Your Audience

Seriously. Get to know who your consumers are. What do they love? What do they hate? What can they do without? Familiarize yourself with the habits, preferences, values, and characteristics of your audience. 

This means you’ll need to understand them on a deeper level, not just their satisfaction with your product or their likelihood to recommend it to their friends. Only when you know who they are, are you able to curate content, services, products, and experiences that excite them. 

How? You’ll never know until you ask. So conduct behavior and attitude studies, concept tests, brand perception and awareness studies, pre-and post-purchase feedback, and satisfaction assessments. Even utilizing Natural Language Processing (NLP) to extract sentiment from product reviews is a good step in the right direction.

If you’re a little hung up on figuring out how to better know and segment your audience, see our blog on consumer segmentation to learn how you can get it right.

2. Timing is Everything

For those of us who remember landlines, think back to all of the sales calls that would, without-a-doubt, interrupt dinner. If that approach didn’t work for advertisers then, a similar approach won’t work now.  If you want to reach your audience effectively, you’ll need to find the optimal time(s) to engage them. 

For some consumers, it might be while they are experiencing your product. For others it could be just before the point of sale, or as they are actively searching for products, services, or brands like yours. Reviewing channel metrics and directly asking existing customers about their preferences can help you zero in. 

The fact is, there is a science to timing for optimal and meaningful engagement. Do your research and act accordingly.

3. Meet Consumers on Their Terms

Understanding the entire consumer journey for each of your segments requires a relentless pursuit of knowledge and analysis. As a marketer, it’s not about simply reaching your audience, but instead about meeting them where they already are. 

Think about the shopping habits of your audience, for example. If you haven’t already, figure out where they prefer to shop and why. Is it online? Great, what devices do they gravitate towards? Do they like to shop from home or while on the go? Or, perhaps they go for the in-store experience. Whatever their choice may be, it is up to you to find out. 

Let’s take, for example, restaurants. Many are dealing with applications like Yelp, Seamless, or Postmates, meaning their customer engagement is often split between multiple touchpoints, from in-store service to online brand interactions.  

Do the service and experiences vary across these mediums? What types of customers interact with you at different touchpoints and why? Only research can help you find the answers.

The Takeaways

In a world where consumers don’t just desire instant gratification but expect it, the window for brands to impress and retain their audience is shrinking. Consumers demand impactful and curated content-anything less just won’t do.  

Make them feel like it’s about them, and there is a higher probability you will win their business.

To succeed, you’ve got to be curious and equipped with the right tools. SightX can take the burden of data analysis from your team, and turn it into actionable insights. Freeing up more of your time, so you can focus on the things that matter to your audience.  


Naira Musallam, PhD

Naira Musallam, PhD

Naira the co-founder of SightX and our in-house expert for all things research, statistics, and psychology. She received her doctorate from Columbia University, and served as faculty at both Columbia and NYU. She has over 15 years of experience in data analysis and research across multiple sectors in various industries.

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