Top 9 for ’09 – #8 Intent

Photo from Flickr user candrews

Photo from Flickr user candrews

There has been plenty of evidence to suggest attention becoming more fragmented. Households now receive an average of 104 television channels. Radio, once confined to an available frequency spectrum has extended to HD, Satelite and the Internet. Our time is split between music, television and online entertainment. This is all pointing to one unquestionable fact – we have less time for more information. As marketers, we are always searching for ways to attract that attention. As we move through 2009, I expect to see marketers embrace the fragmentation and develop strategies that target customers where their attention lies rather than trying to direct attention away from existing sources.

Louis Grey points out how the successful web applications of today are simple to use. Not all people that are online today are early adopters. In fact, the Internet has become mainstream. While there are many locations online and applications online that remain focused on an early adopter niche, the true successes are aimed at the majority of users. Twitter wins out over other life streaming applications due to its simplicity. Facebook beats branded networks through its ease of use.

But what makes Twitter and Facebook easy to use? It’s not only in the interface. The simplicity for web applications comes from the ability to conform to the user. While many brands have tried to create their own social networks (many with poor results), the adoption of Facebook and MySpace continues to grow. What these offer (that brands can not) is intent. Users of these services can craft their own intent. They can connect with friends, share photos, crack jokes and spy on others (one of the biggest unspoken drivers). The intent is to connect. The specifics are largely fragmented. Brands must maintain focus. Users do not. Thus, the success of digital applications is driven by its simplicity in not only use but intent.

We’re already seeing a push toward this in marketing. Guns ‘N’ Roses released their long awaited album on MySpace. Zappos has been able to supply truly PR-able customer service through Twitter. Smashing Pumpkins is releasing the first single from their new album in the Rock Band video game. These are all early cases of digital marketing going to the customers.

For years, digital marketing has revolved around getting customers to your site. This involved creating a site with enough content and value to make customers visit. We added news, networks, games and sales. While we were able to see some success, only the truly motivated were attracted. Others remained on the sidelines. Our efforts to attract them led to banner ads at first and to SEO and SEM as we got wiser.

Search Engine Marketing is only the first step of this new wave of digital marketing driven by intent. It was an understanding that users most often start with search (intent). We are concerned with getting customers to our site when their intent matches something we can service. While promising (and lucrative for Google), this still requires the act of a click on the user end to generate any sales.

Where intent driven digital marketing is heading in the next year is away from the brand site and into the myriad locations users already frequent. We will be seeing Facebook, YouTube and Amazon more like the major television networks – opportunities to reach a lot of customers. The benefit this time is that we can customize the message to each potential customer. No longer do we have to settle for one commercial to appeal to a demographic. We are now able to customize the messages to individuals based on their intent whether it be connecting with friends, thinking about a vacation or wondering what to eat for dinner. The information is there. Customers are open to communication. It only depends on how we choose to interact.

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