Know Who Your Audience ISN’T As Much As You Know Who IS

by Patrick Murphy

August 15, 2019 at 9:34 am

Humans are not, by nature, very rational creatures. But in marketing, we’re often targeting more of an “ideal” human rather than facing the realities of our species’ shortcomings. We make decisions based on emotions, hunger, fear, tiredness and cognitive dissonance. As evolved as we are, we sometimes aren’t very smart about the choices we make.

The sooner we acknowledge this, the sooner we can get to work creating real behavior change. And that brings us to one of the core tenants of BJ Fogg’s behavior design model: the information-action fallacy.
information action fallacy behavior design

Think of screen time for example. You know it’s not good for sleep patterns or your spinal and neck alignment. Now we’re finding people are GROWING HORNS in the back of their heads (or maybe not?). Despite knowing all of these risks, and even with the addition of screen time tracker apps native to the iPhone, screen time is still on the rise. Cnet reported ways to reduce your screen time and none of them have anything to do with giving you more information; they’re more about limiting one’s ability. Not a great way to change behavior.

nielsen study

This shows that even knowing what people know, it’s just too easy to pick up that phone and scroll. Heck, despite decades of studies and public service announcements, people still smoke cigarettes.

So, in comes motivation. Using junkie phone users as the audience, to whom would we market an app that limits app use time? Should it be someone who just bought the latest Samsung Galaxy or iPhone? Or, would the motivation to take action be higher with those who, say, just left a chiropractic appointment where they found out they were suffering from iPhone neck?

In these terms, it’s safe to say that someone who is experiencing some sort of pain from not putting down their phone would be more motivated to download that app to limit their use.

When we think about how the behavior model works in the context of identifying an audience for a campaign that asks them to take a particular action, we can start to see why knowing who our audience ISN’T is just as crucial as knowing who we should be targeting. It’s not the 19-year-old with the new iPhone XR, but rather, it’s the person highly motivated to download the app to reduce their pain and discomfort.

audience off madison ave


In the early years of digital marketing, behavioral targeting was the gold standard on influencing a purchase behavior, so to speak, and that got us further than we had ever gone in how we target ads. Suddenly, we can pair search behavior with shopping cart behaviors, site visitation and, in many cases, demographics that would tell us, yes, this is my audience.

So, let’s flip this on its head for a moment. If you could isolate or suppress who your audience isn’t, wouldn’t that help you refine your targeting? Wouldn’t that help you eliminate even more waste in your marketing spend?

Our answer: of course it would. And luckily, there are some newer digital marketing platforms that are starting to catch up with that idea. One we recently came across is Causal IQ, which works to suppress audiences rather than only target the “right ones.” They figured out how to extend a marketer’s budget and make it more efficient, so you can avoid putting that ad in front of the wrong person.

So how do we focus our clients on eliminating the wrong audiences? The best recent example I can think of relates to one of our casino gaming clients. By leveraging our proprietary technology LighthousePE and real-time personalized notifications in their app, the casino is able to reach players when they are most motivated. How? By targeting them only when they have entered a geofence around a competitor. Since implementing this “turnaround” strategy, the casino has seen a 15% redemption rate within hours of prompting the customer with a promotional turn around offer.

The old school of thought is to batch and blast information to all of a client’s audiences in hopes that you reach a fraction of a percentage response to a direct mail piece. Technology is helping advertisers parse out audiences who are exhibiting their motivations to take a behavior based on where and when they are spending their time. The narrower you can hone in on the right audience and audience behaviors, the more successfully your messaging is going to land—and that means identifying and recognizing why an audience SHOULDN’T be included.

Oh, and check your head horns. We’re still a little worried about that.


August 15, 2019 at 9:34 am

Patrick Murphy