Consumers’ Missions, Mindsets And Moods Offer Clues To Boosting Ad Relevancy

michaelwilhiteData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Michael Wilhite, senior vice president of data strategy at 84.51°.

To drive the most relevant content to the most relevant audience, digital media targeting has become more advanced than ever. We are moving from broad demographic-based buying to targeted strategies that are often guided by interaction or purchase history.

With the ever-growing demand of time and attention from consumers, are we doing enough? The continued rise of user adoption of ad-blocking software globally would suggest that the answer is no.

While ad-blocking technology wars rage on, we may be missing the most fundamental point: Consumers, in resounding numbers, are trying to block us out. We may applaud our progress when we look at how our media spend efficiency and targeting sophistication has evolved, but we must also recognize that consumer expectations are higher.

The current model of identifying relevance largely relies on pinpointing and quantifying target audiences with general characteristics that suggest interest. The reality is that situational factors are a far more important driver of specific choice and behavior than personality or other disposition.

Today there are expanding sources of data that help marketers reach the appropriate target audiences at the most relevant and effective moment. As we get more sophisticated, we can build layers of relevancy around consumers’ mission, mindset and mood.


Media buying has shifted from people targets to occasion targets. More advanced approaches to targeting are layering content from understanding of day parts, device origin, content channel, or real-time cues to infer a consumer’s mission.

A broader opportunity to leverage the digital channel is to move beyond targeting as monologue to facilitation of a dialogue that invites consumers to select content that will further their missions. Digitally native consumers interact with digital media to seek needed information, providing an opportunity for digital intermediaries to empower users to shape their content experience in new ways. The providers that support this experience will win.


Marketers should consider the consumer mindset to identify the stage of their purchase decision to deliver the most relevancy. Journey mapping can uncover a more granular understanding of consumers’ specific needs at various stages. Knowing the role that different channels or content providers play at each stage can help determine timing and content type to match a consumer’s mindset.

The value of mindset will grow as connected sensors continue to be integrated, generating rich contextual cues to help marketers better understand consumer needs during critical moments. Geolocation services, connected devices in the home and near-field communication will all yield more clues about where customers are in their journey. The winning strategy will match the content to the mindset to break through.


Emotions play a vital role in building sustainable and meaningful connection with brands. As a social psychologist with a 20-year career in consumer analytics, I have seen a greater focus on understanding and measuring emotional connection in the past three years than in the previous 15 combined. Should we be surprised by this trend in an era of advocacy and social media? Factoring in a consumer’s mood can help marketers grab attention and drive a more lasting connection to the message.

Understanding and evaluating the impact of mood on targeting effectiveness is in its infancy, but technology will continue to drive new capabilities. Earlier this year, Apple acquired an artificial intelligence startup called Emotient, which has a patent for processing and categorizing emotional facial expressions. This is just one example of expanding investment in facial and voice recognition to create a deeper understanding of mood in near real time. Providers who embrace and respond to this opportunity will amplify the effectiveness of targeting relevancy.

Digital media platforms currently power the most sophisticated, efficient and precise targeted media spend that we have ever witnessed, yet it isn’t enough. Not now, at least.

Advances in data and science will keep driving step change in capabilities for relevancy targeting. And consumers facing information overload and desire for immediate responsiveness will continue to raise expectations for relevancy. Those brands who find their target audience in the moment with the right content for the right time will cut through the clutter and build a lasting connection.

Follow 84.51° (@8451group) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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