6 Ways Marketers Can Improve Behavioral Targeting and Become Consumers' Partners
Behavioral targeting may put consumers in an adversarial frame of mind, which may result in their attempts to be less predictable, more closed-off and even misleading.
So finds a study announced in May by the University of Michigan. Being Unpredictable: Friend or Foe Matters studies 200 undergraduates who behaved markedly differently when they were approached in a competitive manner—which researchers say much of behavioral marketing emulates—rather than in a cooperative manner.
"The social psychological literature suggests the default is to consider others competitors," says one of the study's seven authors, Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks. "Of course, through social interaction we may develop a 'relationship' with others (including brands) that shifts the perception from competitor to a more cooperative relationship. Our findings add to this puzzle of human behavior by showing that people generally do not like others to accurately predict them, specifically when it's not explicitly a cooperative relationship."
An explicit cooperative relationship with a marketer may, for instance, be a customer who signs up with Amazon.com and is, therefore, more receptive to the site's literature preference predictions, he says. It reflects a shift in the target's mind from the perception that the site is competing for his money to one more willing to accept that Amazon.com is trying to help him find the right products.
The lead author of the study, Oscar Ybarra, agrees: "When people do not know someone, or a company, they are unlikely to assume benevolent intent until trust is built."
The study elaborates: "The general tendency toward being (not being) predictable facilitates flexible responding. For example, in cooperative contexts being predictable can foster transparency and coordination. But in competitive contexts, not being predictable can aid in keeping others at bay, which may be instrumental for reducing interpersonal costs or even gaining competitive advantage."