Understanding what your audience really wants


By Ed Layt

Europe’s largest youth marketing festival, YMS LDN, took place at the end of March. And for the third consecutive year, SMRS were pleased to sponsor and run the Higher Education stream.

I managed to catch a few sessions from the wider programme over the two days and there was one key theme that really stood out – audience understanding. I wrote a blog about this very subject just before the festival, so it was great to see a substantial amount of conversation and focus directed towards developing a strong understanding of audiences, rather than just looking at the new (and very tempting) shiny innovations.

Since YMS, audience understanding has become a hot bed of discussion. Fueled by the profiling undertaken by Cambridge Analytica and the recent changes made by Facebook and Instagram to their APIs which have reduced the insight provided to third parties.

With just six weeks until GDPR, we are definitely entering a time where responsible data utilisation and management is high on the agenda.

So how do you harness the power of audience understanding through appropriate use of data to improve customer experiences?

Simple – the key is consent, transparency and not relying on a single methodology.

Why is it important?

First of all, lets understand exactly why we need to understand our audience.

Our audience is made up of individuals and in turn, they have individual and differing needs, motivations and information requirements when they are considering university. By meeting these individual needs as closely as possible, we should be able to better engage and motivate audiences, and provide a better experience.

So it’s certainly worthwhile pursuing.

However, it is difficult to meet individual requirements on a one-to-one basis, so it’s often a necessity to segment audiences based on a number of criteria.

It appears that Cambridge Analytica did this through psychographic segmentation, ranking individuals on five personality traits through observed behaviour on Facebook. Behaviour that individuals didn’t necessarily know was being tracked and certainly not aware that it would be profiled in this way and used for political campaigns. So that is clearly the wrong approach to take.

Consent and transparency

GDPR has put an enhanced focus on gaining consent. And audiences will become increasingly familiar with seeing what their data will be used for and subsequently making informed decisions on whether they consent or not. The important thing for marketers to consider is ensuring transparency in regard to how audience data will be used, and in doing so, make an attractive case for why it is of value to the individual i.e. a clear value exchange that gives them something back, such as a better experience.

Getting the full picture

Inevitably, not everyone will provide consent, so it will become even more important to build a full understanding of your audiences through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research. Without this more complete picture there will be big gaps and the potential for inaccurate assumptions to be made – which could disengage your audiences and damage your brand image.

We are continuing to work with our clients to help them build a comprehensive, realistic and consensual view of their audiences. If you would like help with your audience understanding, get in touch.