The Art of Attraction

12 April 2020Download PDF

Robert PepperStrategy Partner

robert@pslondon.co.uk020 7375 6450

Targeting and storytelling at key moments in life

Understanding audiences

As it increasingly becomes the norm for people to document their lives online, opportunities for better targeting are rife in marketing. Posting daily updates and images to public forums, encouraging others to interact and respond – these habits create a narrative around individuals, and organically places them in like-minded groups.

In terms of audience mapping, we are no longer reliant on pushing out surveys that ask people to supply census information and categorise themselves through a series of tick boxes. We have a means to watch the day-to-day journeys of our target markets, and spot widespread trends that help us to understand the right ways to engage their attention.

Clustering by emotional drivers

Traditionally, markets are segmented by age, location, gender, income and a whole host of demographics that we attribute to being a suitable target for HE. Prospects are becoming increasingly adept at portraying their personality online. They offer up huge amounts of data that can help to profile audiences in new ways, and could open up new targets you were previously unaware of.

And it’s not just about what they put in writing. Developments in online monitoring technology and artificial intelligence image recognition mean the coming years will see dramatic developments in the ability to assess image data. This can be anything from spotting your logo in the background of an image posted on Facebook, through to assessing a person’s state of mind from their Instagram feed.

Categorising by sentiment and emotional drivers also offers a better way to tailor messaging. For example, those who share content that suggests a decisive, impulsive, ambitious personality are likely to respond to very different messages to someone more on the cautious, considered and self-deprecating side. Reassuring messages combined with serene, green imagery can be aimed at those who portray anxiety or concerns about coming to university, while high energy, excitement filled communications are pushed out to those with an appetite for adventure. By using emotional data tracking, universities can tailor recruitment and conversion messaging to better match the audience.

Storytelling isn’t just how we construct our identities, stories are our identities. John Holmes, Professor of Psychology, University of Waterloo Dingfelder, 2011

Everyone has a story to tell

We all love a good story, but we also build our own lives as a narrative. Key events or changes in life symbolise a ‘new chapter’, making people more inclined to take a risk or invest in a new direction for themselves. University sets the perfect context for an exciting chapter in these life stories, either early in adulthood when you’re exploring and experimenting with your personality and passions, or later in life when you’re searching for new experiences, a change or exploring your own knowledge. Again, there is opportunity here to find new markets to target. We’re seeing a macro trend of those aged 50 to 80 seeking out new opportunities to expand their knowledge and life experience. They also have the money to invest in it. They are culture-hungry, and an increasing number of over 50s are moving back to cities to stay immersed in a lively social scene. Good news for urban universities.

Marketing to key moments in life

The positivity surrounding new chapters and life events prompts people to invest more money and many brands are making the most of this. When we talk of life-changing events, it can be anything from weddings and new homes, to birthday celebrations and New Year parties. Key moments in life trigger behaviour change, particularly around decision making. These life markers prompt people to assess their life context, and with many brands already demonstrating the effectiveness of this tactic in securing new customers, universities could benefit from exploring this opportunity.

Cleverly targeted messages timed to arrive at these key moments can increase response rates dramatically and could offer a significant recruitment boost for universities.

Key life events:

  • milestone birthdays
  • marriage/engagement
  • having a baby
  • house buying
  • job changes – promotion, retirement, new job, loss of job
  • loss of someone close
  • changes in relationship
  • children leaving home
  • retirement
  • change in physical ability
  • illness
  • starting a business.

New homeowners in the US spend an average of $9,700 on items to kit out their nest within the first year and a half after moving.

Email campaigns centred around birthdays generate 342% more revenue

People need a pick me up

It isn’t always positive emotional drivers that encourage people to invest in new ventures. Events that are traditionally positive can trigger stress, anxiety or a sense of sadness. The build up to significant events, such as a milestone birthday or New Year, can lead to a ‘come down’ after the event leaving people feeling at a loss for what to do next. These moments are the times when people are likely to assess their situation, and may be more inclined to invest in a life-change.

Imagine what impact a well-timed, positive message at these moments could have.

Even in terms of the days of the week, Sundays can be a difficult time for people, as the ‘day of rest’ actually marks the end of free time and the stress on the horizon of returning to work.

Summary of opportunities...

  1. Allow your audiences to define themselves through emotional insight they provide online, rather than traditional demographics such as age and gender, and target messages accordingly. Don’t ignore the signs that older markets hold huge potential as prospective students.
  2. Explore the timings of campaigns to fit the life events of your target market rather than the university year. Pay attention to life events that create a void, which a university course could fill. Provide a positive and proactive move forward following events such as milestone birthdays, children leaving home or divorce. Demonstrate that the university life experience doesn’t have to be a one-off – you can add a student chapter to your life at any stage and it will provide a wealth of new stories.
  3. Create messaging that responds to these emotional clues, and relates to what they’re currently experiencing, helping your audience feel understood and connected.
  4. Begin to see your audience as the lead characters in their own stories, and offer them opportunities for an exciting new chapter.
  5. Be positive, entertaining and enjoyable to engage with. Today people are dealing with constant pressure and anxiety – be the relief from this and begin to show how university can provide a new context for personal progression.

About us

We work hard at keeping our finger on the pulse of all the sectors we’re involved in. While doing that, we often spot interesting opportunities that could help you succeed in meeting your business objectives. If you’re interested in talking to us about how to take advantage of these insights, or you’d like us to look into something specific for you, get in touch with us for a chat.

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