41. Affinity (Marketing) 


I am an advertising aficionado, digital marketer, brand buff and self-titled industry thought leader. Within the Ad Technology ecosystem, I have found a career path that compels me to learn and also allows me to bankroll my pretty comfortable lifestyle. Having experienced a lot over the last hard-working 3 years in marketing, I wanted to take the time to write a humble series of posts outlining some of the things I have learnt from what is a truly booming and growth industry. This is the first. 

When you desire a tomato based dip for your chip, Heinz would like to believe you would think only of them. Equally, When you need a new mobile phone, Apple would want you to feel so self-assured of the benefits of their latest handset that you are subconsciously predisposed to select them as the facilitator of your forever after app-iness. Similarly, when you are sleepy at work and you need a boost, Starbucks are at pains to be seen as the stable, and reliable, source that can provide you with your impending caffeine based care package.

In short, Brand affinity is king and repetitive buying actions are perpetuated by constructing a near familial bond with products; a bond found through trust, grown through quality interaction and fuelled by a consumer association with a brand that far surpasses that of the product it offers. So how do we as marketers harness this power, and how close can we get to our consumers before it encroaches on the uncomfortable area found beyond familial affinity?

As with family members and friends, where those who engage at your time of need become those you rely on in the long term, brands who engage at significant emotional moments grow better long term consumer bases. This explains the flurry of ‘perfect family’ television adverts around Christmas, and the dominion that John Lewis has over the Christmas advertising market with its gut-wrenchingly tear inducing stories of love and solidarity. The John Lewis Christmas adverts are a perfect example of a brand properly capitalising on a significant emotional moment and as a result reaping the financial rewards. But with recent developments within digital marketing, how much closer can brands get to the emotional pulse? 

Considering only hyperlocal mobile targeting, the opportunity to be at the right place, on a painstakingly precise basis, is getting greater than ever. To be able to target users with a message relative to their immediate surroundings is no longer a dystopian prospect reserved only for the likes of ‘Minority Report’. A working example, ‘You are 34 metres away from your nearest Starbucks, you have been to Starbucks 3 times this week (by pooling users on a hyperlocal basis who have entered Starbucks) buy a coffee today and we’ll give you a free cake.’ Not many people turn down free cake, and lo and behold the brand constructs itself as a benevolent benefactor. This can be considered the first tool in the marketer’s kit to build truly serendipitous digital marketing campaigns. 

Another key asset in this kit is social media. With the ability to log level integrate with social media data providers, comes the opportunity to activate campaigns at truly significant moments. A working example: ‘There is no better ketchup #heinz’ was tweeted by a major celebrity and #heinz is now trending. This is the opportune moment to playfully push brand affinity. Using our previous tool (hyperlocal) we can target our ‘Because you’ve been so fine, have £1 off of Heinz’ ad to users who are engaging with the hashtag, within only the most relevant locations. The brand is seen to be playfully responding to a significant moment, as if a friend rewarding you for your loyalty.

Another key potential is within tracking and logging development and progress of users within apps; and the real world implications of this. For example, the user has an app (a game) and has been stuck on a level for over 10 minutes and this specific action is what activates the ad when they complete the level. They complete the level. Pop! An interstitial ad appears offering the user a free download of the latest iPhone app with the message ‘Well done from Apple – That level was tough, but you did it! Have this app for free on the house!’ (an app that normally costs to download). At that perfect victorious moment, the user is rewarded by Apple positioning Apple as the family member who pats your back for for successes. 
Brands who are willing to play with this serendipitous suite can reap great rewards.

The mutual factor between all aforementioned brands is their powerful brand image. When constructing campaigns or working for brands, it’s important to consider the simple power of human emotion. At the right time and place and within the best context, advertising can become more than just a distraction. 


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