Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Harmony Murphy: Going beyond great marketing in an age of unpredictability

Harmony Murphy is GM Advertising UK at eBay and NDA’s new monthly columnist

If you’d have told someone this time last year that toilet roll would soon become a hot commodity, they would probably not have believed you. Likewise, who could have predicted that bikes and pieces of home workout equipment would turn into gold dust, seemingly overnight?

Life can be unpredictable and, as humans, so can we – almost nothing has shown this to be true quite like the last year. And in this new age of unpredictability, when consumers’ values and interests can change at the drop of a hat, it’s become clear that digital marketers need to rethink their approach to engaging audiences.

Now, when it comes to marketing to unpredictable audiences, relevance is the shiniest tool in a marketers’ toolkit. This doesn’t mean the playbook of tried and tested strategies – using traditional targeting methods – has to be rewritten, but rather brought firmly into 2021.

Going beyond age, gender, search history or context, what if we could tap into consumers’ changing moods and mindsets as they happen, and zero in on these high value customers when they’re hiding in plain sight? What if, we could target them with the most helpful, relevant, content that speaks to their mood, one second to the next?

Welcome to the world of mindset marketing.

Expecting the unexpected

Imagine someone has just finished watching the final of the Great British Bake Off. They may not have been a baker before, but now they fancy testing their culinary credentials. A marketer targeting audiences based on demographic or behavioural insights might not consider this consumer to be valuable or worth targeting. But people are unpredictable – and this Bake-Off fan is inspired to shop.

At eBay Ads for instance, our immense scope of inventory gives us access to a wealth of data about what shoppers are interested in at a given time, across countless categories. By combining behavioural and contextual insights, we can help identify shopper intent – and “moods” – in real time, allowing brands to engage with consumers who might not usually fall into their audience segments but are in-market for their product at that moment. So, whether a new-born baker is in the market for a food processor, a spatula, or cooking classes, brands that tap into this mood have a ripe opportunity to engage.

Ultimately, brands that don’t consider shifting mindsets are missing out on a huge pool of potential and genuinely in-market customers. But, by harnessing mindset marketing, and pinpointing people in a particular situation, mood or frame of mind, marketers can take the remaining guesswork out of advertising and engage with more specific, receptive audiences.

And it’s not just about engaging more relevant audiences. Rather than seeing advertising as a transactional means to an end, the best ads are those that deliver helpful, inspiring content that resonates with a shoppers’ given mindset. This means that we can not only help brands target more accurately and increase ROI – but for shoppers we can also create a more relevant and enjoyable user experience while they’re on our site.

Seize the moment

Mood marketing can also play a pivotal role in cultivating brand perception. Marketers that want to associate their brand with specific moods or mindsets can serve brand-building advertisements to shoppers, right at the second when they’re in the desired or target mood.

As we wait for the lifting of lockdown with bated breath, brands perhaps have the biggest opportunity yet to create associations with positive moods and mindsets of hope and excitement.

Whether shoppers are searching for new ‘going out’ clothes, procuring a picnic blanket for gatherings at the park, or investing in garden furniture that will impress guests, marketers have an opportunity to target shoppers with positive, and brand-reinforcing ads that are relevant to their mood, and contribute to the shopping experience.

Marketers have already laid much of the foundations for going beyond great marketing. But, by enhancing existing strategies and looking at how they can tap into consumers’ mindsets in order to deliver the most relevant content, brands can make their marketing not great, but brilliant.