To increase the effectiveness of ad campaigns, brands need to shift their focus from audience targeting to the immediate context and mindset of the real people receiving their messaging, argues Illuma’s Jacqui Wallis.

Brand advertisers focus too much attention on audiences and too little on the context of the real people consuming their ads. This was a key message from Tesco’s Head of Media and Campaign Planning Nick Ashley during a recent panel at Advertising Week Europe.

Ashley explained how the emphasis on ‘audience buying’ that often goes hand-in-hand with programmatic is leading brands to neglect consumer context. Contextual factors such as mindset and environment can influence purchase decisions as much, if not more than brand loyalty or audience segment. This means brand advertisers must prioritise context in the targeting process. 

Brand loyalty no longer exists

Okay, so the death of brand loyalty may be a bit of a bold statement. Consumers might be more inclined to buy from a brand they know and trust for high-value one-off acquisitions such as laptops. For this reason loyalty is still relatively strong among consumer tech brands, with Samsung and Apple taking the two top spots in the latest Brand Loyalty Index. But even here brand allegiance is dropping, with eight out of ten tech brands seeing big falls in loyalty from the previous year, including a 12% decrease for Apple.

Continuous brand loyalty for everyday purchases – from toothpaste to t-shirts – is very rare, making the idea of audience redundant. Consumers won’t necessarily buy from a brand just because they have done so before, or because they fall within a particular targeting segment.

Today’s consumers have more choice than ever before. They are fickle and unpredictable, with continually changing needs and preferences. A brand loyalty survey reveals almost 70% of consumers identify themselves as transient loyalists who can be persuaded to buy a competitor’s brand. Less than 30% claim to be resolute loyalists, only ever buying their favourite brands. Long-term brand relationships are uncommon and where loyalty does exist it is a fluid entity.

Purchase choices are guided by mindset

In the absence of brand loyalty, everyday purchase choices are influenced by multiple contextual factors. These include immediate environment, real-world developments, time of day or day of week, the device or channel on which messaging is consumed and, perhaps most significantly, current mood or mindset.

Brands have always understood the importance of delivering the right message to the right consumer at the right time. But they also need to reach people in the right mindset. Because loyalty is scarce and context is key, finding prospects in the right mindset to engage with their campaigns and buy their products will help brands achieve growth.

Content consumption is the key to mindset

The key challenge for brands is harnessing context and mindset. The answer lies in content consumption. As content consumption patterns continually change, so too do the mindsets of customers. Online content inspires different moods among consumers, and some articles, news reports or videos will inevitably drive more receptivity and engagement than others. 

Both macro and micro issues affect the day’s content consumption, making it impossible to predict these contextual variables and influences ahead of time. People are inherently erratic and impulsive, with varied interests and they consume different content relating to different subjects on different days at different times. It is therefore vital that brands understand consumers’ in-the-moment environment and mindset in order to best deliver effective ad messaging.

By using sophisticated machine learning tools that capture the meaning of content beyond words and tags, brands can determine the contextual framework and mindsets in which customers are engaging in real-time. Brands can then follow these contextual and mindset patterns across the web, finding other closely matched brand-safe environments to reach entirely new customers to engage with the brand. They can continually assess different environments where advertising could appear and choose the most effective. As mood and mindset are constantly changing, identifying the best content alongside which to advertise must be a perpetual process.

This nuanced approach understands and embraces the complexities of choice and consumer behaviour faced by brands. Understanding and deploying context and mindset lets brands drive growth in a world where consumers are more than one-dimensional audience segments.

To increase the effectiveness of ad campaigns, brands need to shift their focus from audience targeting to the immediate context and mindset of the real people receiving their messaging. By using content consumption patterns to tap into mindset - in real-time, brands can align their messaging with content that inspires receptivity with new customers.