Q Thoughts

Reversing the Market Research

by Jay Habegger

At OwnerIQ we specialize in a concept called Ownership Targeting: target an online display advertising message based on what consumers actually own and their considered purchase intent. In a nutshell, we use ownership and purchase of consumer durable goods to triangulate on attributes that advertisers typically care about such as lifestyles, indicative behaviors and attitudes.

Data on ownership of consumer durable goods and, more frequently, purchase intent has mostly been used thus far to target “intenders” or “in-market” buyers. For example, if I’m on a price comparison shopping engine today looking at televisions there is a good chance that I’m likely to buy a television in the near future. This simple observation is used by etailers and others that are looking to drive immediate transactions.  This is the most common use of purchase intent data: satisfy bottom-of-funnel goals by targeting people in market to buy a particular product type.

What’s unusual about what we do, however, is that we are the only company focused on getting at top-of-funnel attributes by using ownership and purchase activities.   In addition to driving bottom-of-the-funnel buyers, we use ownership and considered purchase intent to infer top-of-the-funnel targeting criteria.  We can get at things that are extremely difficult to get at almost any other way such as lifestyle and attitudes.

We can do this because of two fundamental consumer behaviors. First, consumers buy things that fit into their lifestyle and activities. Secondly, consumers invest in brands with social meaning and seek to identify with them based on their lifestyle and self-image.

In the case of both behaviors we depend on a technique we call “Reversing the Market Research”. What we mean by this is that manufacturers of products have invested significant resources to perform careful market research of their consumers so that they can tailor their products to address a particular market segment. For example, purchasers of high performance bicycles for triathlons are very different than purchasers of urban commuting bicycles. The manufacturer of the triathlon bicycle has gone to great lengths to understand the demographics and attitudes of tri-athletes so they can successfully sell their product; what do these buyers value and how do they behave? Likewise, the maker of the commuting bicycle has done the same, although likely with very different results. If you know a consumer is a purchaser of the triathlon cycle, or even if they are strongly considering purchasing it, you can reasonably conclude that the consumer has the attributes of the consumer that the bicycle was designed for. In this case, probably a high educational attainment, higher income and motivation by goals , among other things.

Consumers often invest brands with meaning that perhaps even the manufacturer didn’t foresee. Manufacturer market research to understand consumers can tease out these affinities and the brand affinities can be used by advertisers to accomplish advertising objectives.

Rob Walker writes in Buying In about how Timberland footwear was adopted by urban culture to the surprise of Timberland. By reversing the market research that Timberland did into this phenomenon, advertisers could use ownership and purchase of these products to target an urban culture segment that otherwise might have been difficult to reach.

As consumers we make decisions about product purchases every day that have only a little to do with the strict functionality of the product and have a lot to do with style, brand image and our own self-image. Ownership Targeting, through reversing the market research, allows advertisers to make use of this fact to reach audiences that are hard to capture through other methods.

To further illustrate the concept of Ownership Targeting and Reversing the Market Research in a tongue-in-cheek way we’ve prepared an interactive demonstration called You-Are-What-You-Own. We ask you take “Virtual Ownership” of a high-ticket item, such as a private jet, and then explore the description of a person that would own that item. When you see the items you’ll immediately conjure an opinion on your own about what type of person would own each of them. You’re doing Ownership Targeting when you do this. We do roughly the same thing, just using quantitative information, and we make the results actionable for display advertising.

Categories:Posts from 2010


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