Have your customer’s true interests at heart in 2018

Predictions 2018: Interest-Based Marketing

My colleague Lior Charka said, “If marketing is an art and a science, the art comes in crafting the right message, and the science is in finding the right audience to hear the message.”

But until recently, this involved some guesswork. After all, large businesses had no way of knowing what exactly made each of their many customers tick. That is, until the birth of technology and algorithms that allow marketers to do just that. Now, interest-led marketing is an art and a science of its own, and everyone is doing it, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, or Outbrain.

So, why all the hype around interest-led marketing?

It’s rude to push

In the competitive, noisy online world, ad saturation turns users off. It makes them turn, instead, to ad blockers. Pushing out a one-size-fits-all message to a wide, diverse audience simply doesn’t fly.

To build long-term relationships, marketers must instead embrace pull marketing tactics. They must draw people in based on their individual interests and with personalised content. The value of the brand’s content means consumers decide to engage with the brand on their own.

Outbrain’s content discovery platform pioneered interest-led marketing, helping brands connect with their target audience at every stage of the customer journey, and our data shows that this approach to content recommendations can result in a CTR 10 or 20 times higher than display ads. These personalised, one-to-one interactions with consumers will cut through the noise in 2018, equipping marketers with the audience understanding they need for deep and lasting engagement.

Not all that glitters is gold

However, interest-based targeting is only as effective as the data that drives it. In a world where the messages people like or share don’t always align with what they read or watch, we need to rethink what kind of data is most effective.

The ‘private-social dissonance’ phenomenon shows that content categories such as books, wine and careers tend to be shared more relative to their actual popularity. In contrast, categories such as sex, crime and celebrities tend to be more visited but less shared. For marketing purposes, it’s crucial to address the disparity between what audiences claim to like and what they really like.

This marketing dilemma led Outbrain to create interest graphs. Over the last 10 years, we have charted the genuine, private interests of audiences rather than their purported, public ones.

And when marketers have used this data to drive their campaign efforts, it has been extremely powerful. For example, by marrying interest graph data with first party data, marketers can model wider audiences with similar interests to existing customers and converters. So far, Outbrain’s lookalike audiences feature has driven 45% more conversions with a 30% lower CPA on average for over thirty brands. Understanding what audiences are interested in -- at scale -- is a hugely effective tool for engagement. This is something we will see come to the fore in the new year.

Additionally, in 2018, expect to see marketers use interest data to efficiently target user they know will be most likely to convert. Indeed, we’re already seeing clients who are early testers of our new “interest targeting” feature see success with this upcoming Outbrain feature.

It’s time to give brands the floor

In 2018, owned and earned media will give marketers the floor, a place to irresistibly pull readers in with truly personalised content. While social media will still have its place in the new year, we will see interest-led marketing flourish across publisher and brand sites. Expect to see consumers flock to premium content that’s relevant to them.

For example, our latest study, the Unconscious Content Bias, revealed that audiences go to Facebook for light-hearted content such as fashion, health and fitness advice videos. However for more informative content, respondents consider brands more reliable sources of information (77%) than their friends on social media (67%).

That’s good news for marketers, for whom the gates of Facebook’s walled garden will always be closed. The ability to target consumers with owned and earned content based on what they really engage with -- rather than just share or like -- is a huge opportunity.

In 2018, interest data will play a pivotal role in how marketers identify and engage with their customers. It will allow them to engage, surprise and delight.

The research says that one third of what we consume online is unplanned content -- content that we have simply Discovered. That’s a vast opportunity for marketers who can reach the right audience and help them Discover relevant and interesting content that matches their own interests. The art and science of interest led marketing will ensure that soon, every piece of online content will have it’s reader’s best interest at heart.

Antonia Faulkner, Marketing Director, Europe, Outbrain.

Email: Antonia@outbrain.com

Twitter: @Outbrain

​Join Outbrain at The Drum's Predictions Breakfast on Thursday, 25 January.

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