The best use of technology to help drive communications efficiency is when it is used to really understand timely consumer behaviour and take advantage of it. Too often the marketing community speaks highly about creative initiatives that surprise through great entertainment. Meanwhile those that deliver a very useful message at a time and place that is so perfect that it feels like Minority Report is equally worth strong recognition and praise.
Recently Vicks teamed up with Google to specifically target mobile devices in high-risk flu areas with customized ads. Google correlated flu-related web searches from 2003 to 2008 with actual data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their findings were used to create a flu prediction model, “Google Flu Trends”. Vicks wanted to target mothers via the apps that they heavily used. All the apps targeted were already collecting basic user data, such as gender and whether the user was a parent. This meant that by incorporating the Google flu data, the ads could be sent only to mothers in areas experiencing high incidences of flu.
The ads were only sent to those mothers who were within two miles of retailers that stock the thermometer. Tapping the ad revealed a video of the product, plus the closest stockist and directions. The value of this service is bar none, both to the consumer and marketer. The user gets help exactly when she needs it. The marketer gets an incredibly efficient media plan. An absolute win-win. The beauty of this example is that its premise can be applied to many different products and categories – find a behaviour pattern that is timely but potentially very valuable (be it to increase frequency, induce switching, introduce a trade-up product, etc.).