LONDON: Marketers habitually target advertising at people who are in the market for a product or service but understanding the “pre-triggers” that got them to that point may be a more effective way to create communications.

Writing in the current issue of Admap, Pete Buckley, head of strategy at MEC, and Richard Bradford, group strategy director at MEC UK, explain how it is now possible to determine the pre-triggers for purchase, and so enable brands to create communications earlier in the purchase journey.

MEC’s analysis of over 250,000 individual purchase journeys across thirty-six categories has identified four stages, from the initial passive stage, when people aren't consciously thinking about a purchase through the second, trigger stage, when a need or want brings people into the third, active stage, when they are thinking about their potential purchase; then finally, the purchase moment.

There are several reasons why it has become increasingly challenging and expensive for brands to influence decisions in the active stage, they contend, including the fact that few people buy a brand that wasn’t on their consideration list when they entered the market; that the size of consideration sets in any case has remained steady even as the choices on offer have exploded in number; and that the cost of media targeting people in the active stage has been growing significantly.

All these factors lead the authors to advise marketers to use data signals to identify and exploit pre-triggers – “the actions people take just before they are triggered into the market” – and so establish their brands in consideration sets at the optimum moment just before the trigger to the active stage.

“Rather than simply push the product, brands can actually help customers meet their goals by creating communications and utility that are useful for their needs before they come to market,” they say.

In Australia, ANZ Bank recognised that that getting or changing jobs was the most significant pre-trigger for opening a bank account among 14–17-year-olds and developed an approach that demonstrated a real understanding of the emotional significance of a first job – a combination of elation, joy and uncertainty.

“This focus on the first job pre-trigger dramatically increased sales by 200% year on year against the young audience, and reduced cost per acquisition by 39%,” Buckley and Bradford report.

It also helped ANZ jump from fourth to second in 'main bank' rankings among the critical youth segment.

Data sourced from Admap; additional content by WARC staff