Last week I had the pleasure to present alongside the wonderful Avinash Kaushik (@avinash), a fellow fan of utility marketing (less shouting, more helping) and fellow detractor of ‘engagement’ (“engagement is not a metric, it’s an excuse“) at Syzygy‘s Digital Innovation Day in Frankfurt on real-time marketing.

Avinash used his elegant and audience-centric STDC (see-think-do-care) alternative to the traditional AIDA model of advertising effects (create awareness, stimulate interest, build desire, inspire action) to make some interesting points and stimulate some interesting thoughts on real-time marketing:

  • Forget real-time marketing, what we need is right-time marketing – which means setting our marketing clocks to four different audience ‘timezones’ (my interpretation not Avinash’s words) in each of which the audience displays different degrees of commercial intent
    • SEE ‘timezone’ – pre-consideration time when your largest qualified audience may see your brand, but where there is no commercial intent
    • THINK ‘timezone’ – consideration time, when members of your largest qualified audience are thinking about buying and there is some commercial intent
    • DO ‘timezone’ – time to act, when members of your largest qualified audience are looking to buy and there is massive commercial intent
    • CARE ‘timezone’ – this is post-purchase time, when members of your largest qualified audience of customers who have already bought what you sell at least twice (a single purchase may have turned out to be a mistake) are looking to enjoy their purchase
  • Right-time marketing is about targeting audiences based on their timezone-specific intentions with messages, media and metrics adapted to those intentions
    • For example, if you are in the ‘see’ timezone, you have no intent to purchase, so any ‘buy-now’ sales message will be ignored (= wasted marketing spend)
    • In fact, only one of the four timezones is dominated by commercial intent (the ‘do’ timezone); in other timezones, marketing focus should target issues other than sales (e.g. brand building – AKA building awareness, preference, reputation) and use appropriate metrics
      • SEE ‘timezone’ metrics – # or % interactions (platforms/ads), conversation, amplification, applause, indexed increase in brand awareness, % new visits
        THINK ‘timezone’ metrics – click-thru rate, page depth, per visit goal value, % assisted
        DO ‘timezone’ metrics – visitor loyalty, checkout abandonment rate, conversion rate, profit (=Rev-Ad Cost-COGS)
        CARE ‘timezone’ metrics – repeat purchases, likelihood to recommend, customer lifetime value
    • Overall – right-time marketing is ‘intent marketing’ with targeting, media, messages and metrics that follow from intentions in each of the four audience timezones [from a psychological perspective this is super-smart, because intent and behaviour are far better predictors of future behaviour than demographics or psychographics]

Here’s a chart that summarises a ‘timezone’ interpretation of the STDC model.

right-time marketing


Whether you buy the STDC model or not (or prefer the six timezones of McKinsey’s new consumer journey (below)), Avinash’s challenge to real-time marketing is pertinent; real-time is only the right-time when it is addressing peoples needs at their particular moment of need.  For me, this means re-thinking marketing as an ‘on-demand’ service – the only right time is when people want it.

Of course, none of this means that mass advertising doesn’t work – in digital or any other media; many of us are card-carrying converts (myself included) to the ‘How Brands Grow‘ Sharp school of advertising (mass advertising works – and it’s about salience – in the mind, on the screen and in the store). From such an advertising perspective, the ‘time-zoning’ lesson for digital marketers is that we need to escape from our direct-response digital bunker and align our methods and metrics more broadly with those in the mainstream advertising industry. This means realising that digital media is mass media and that rating points (gross and target), share of voice, TOMA (recall), brand preference etc all have a place in what we do and how we measure it (as opposed to, say, because-we-can vacuous measures of ‘engagement’ (thankfully, the industry has realised that the half-baked notion of ‘engagement’ is ‘a pox on strategic rigour’ – and has largely purged it from the marketing lexicon)).

Finally, as a psychologist, whilst I am a fan of intent (it’s the second best predictor of future behaviour – next to past behaviour), Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow reminds us how much consumer behaviour may not be based on conscious intent at all, but on subconscious emotional appeal.  The big challenge for digital advertising is to update our frameworks to fit with the advertising industry and the minds of those to whom we advertise.

mckinsey marketing timezones