A recent article on LuxuryDaily.com, an online newsletter for marketers of luxury goods and services, suggested ways of targeting digital advertising campaigns to “affluent males versus females.” The writer’s premise was based on apparent differences in how women and men tend to use digital and social media. Women are more likely to, “share, interact and recommend a brand,” while men primarily use the Internet to search for information about a brand. Consequently, according to the article, emotional advertising appeals will work best with women, and to-the-point messaging is most appropriate for marketing to men. Curiously, these behaviors parallel the respective male and female roles in primitive hunter/gatherer cultures: the male hunts while the female gathers.
On the same day I read the LuxuryDaily.com article, Orbitz publicly admitted that they had experimented with showing Mac users more expensive hotel offers than they did to PC users. They had found that those who choose to buy the more costly Mac are also more likely to select higher-quality accommodations. It isn’t a question of showing different prices for a given package, but rather of changing the order in which packages are ranked and presented to the customer. In other words, they are anticipating a specific user’s buying preferences based on thier demonstrated past behaviors.
Without getting involved in the whole nature versus nurture muddle, I must say that I do believe that we are each born with genetic hardwiring that, to a degree, affects both behavior and choice. Some are related to whether or not you have a Y chromosome, while others result from your family’s genetic history. Now that the human genome has been mapped, your DNA can be traced back to its earliest roots.
Marketing based on the data mining of prior behavior is nothing new, as anyone who patronizes amazon.com surely knows. Neither is gender-based targeting. I have to wonder, however, how long it will be before the two begin to cross-pollinate. Given the increasing ability to acquire and stockpile information about each of us, it is not inconceivable that algorithms could ultimately be developed to project future behavior based on the integration of statistically predicted genetic tendencies and demonstrated past behaviors.
Okay, I’ll admit it sounds a bit like science fiction, but no less so than the smart phone in my pocket would have seemed a few decades ago. Consumer profiling on this level might appear to be a marketer’s dream, but carry it forward to the political arena and it becomes a potential nightmare. Political parties have long based their election strategies on what they believe we want to hear; imagine them being able to shape their messaging on an individual basis. Joe McGinniss wrote The Selling of the President 1968 to explore the profound effect that television had on the Kennedy-Nixon race for the White House; the digital media sequel is waiting to be written.
Co-founding partner, Executive Creative Director and senior copywriter at SMM Advertising.