Maybe a rosé, because you live for a summer patio. It doesn’t matter what you are or what you identify with. What does matter are the 10 non-wine-related questions you just answered that are being compared to the rest of your data to figure out what group of consumers you’re most similar to. You give off data every moment. It isn’t only from the search engines and the social media platforms that you use.
Those are just the easiest methods to track you. Everyone in this room is giving off data just by being here. I know how much your ticket cost to this event. I know what this event is. Plus, I know the opportunity cost.
I know what else is going on around Seattle today. So, I can begin making assumptions. Most people in here are middle-class or above. You have a predisposition to learning or disruptive thoughts. You’re most likely an extrovert who enjoys mingling with large crowds, or you would’ve just watched this on YouTube next month.
You value being an early adopter or the first to conform to a new idea or way of approach issues. So, if I had a hypothetical client who was selling, say, an arm patch to reduce hangovers, I might create something similar to this: a sales funnel. It highlights the steps I have to take to guide or funnel the audience members here to my goal of buying my client’s patch Group.
TEDx starts with the nearly 3,000 people present currently – highly social, intelligent extroverts, with disposable income, who like new things. Step one is to qualify.
So I’m going to filter by age first. Then, I might hire influencers who other TEDx groups follow on traditional or social media to make you aware of my brand by posting or advocating for my hangover patch.
Then, I’ll compare everyone who engaged or clicked on that influencer’s post, and I’ll pay your favorite bloggers to review my patch and link to my website. I’ll track every person who came to my website and pay for a Facebook ad to ask you for your email in exchange for my “10 Guaranteed Tips to Beat a Hangover” e-book. I’ll compare everyone’s email who’s subscribed to the upcoming public Facebook event called Seattle Bar Crawl.
I’ll schedule three emails to go out to you at intervals leading up to the event, each offering a larger discount on my hangover patch. And voilà! A few of these emails will lead to sales.
Now, I’ll go find a new event or demographic and I’ll go through the whole process again. Bonus points: due to the many apps on your phone that know where you are at all times, I have the ability to know where you visit frequently. I email my B2B sales team, and they go sell 50 boxes to the local 7-Eleven, knowing that all of you are likely to be hung over in that area.
It can sound complicated – and don’t worry if you didn’t follow all of the steps – just know that these things are intern-level tracking and marketing. A good marketer could train a new hire in one month ways to isolate that info through email list and clever targeting, and they could combine that with their client’s internal data and start testing assumptions.
Consider this: using methods I’ve mentioned, researchers at Cambridge University were able to understand an individual’s personality better than his own family members could, after analyzing just 150 likes on Facebook. They could understand that subject’s personality better than his or her spouse could, after just 300 likes.
More importantly, companies with this information know how to make you engage with different products and ideas. They know what makes you sad, what ignites a fire in you, what your vulnerabilities are, and so on and so forth.
Because that’s what we do as marketers, isn’t it? We manipulate. We take a product you most likely don’t need and may never even use, and we manipulate you emotionally to believe it’s something you have to buy: “You need this!” This usually seems harmless, but what if these tactics aren’t used to sell you shoes, but beliefs?
Let’s look at that sales funnel again. Here’s a sales funnel I created after reviewing documents and first-person accounts of Western-educated ISIS recruits. The strategy is the same. We look at our existing customers and review their data to find other groups online that qualify as our target group.
Then we expose them to our products and ideas through well-known individuals. Next, we might share information to them through these multiple sources they already engage with or trust. Slowly, we drive them to echo chambers in the form of websites, forums or social media groups that other potential customers or recruits are in.
Finally, we’re moving towards personalizing a message to them, and we personalize this to make them feel like this idea was exactly what they were looking for or they needed. And they’re ready to buy a product or perhaps fly to Turkey so they can illegally cross into Syria.
But every recruit was certain they made the choice to join. Just like my Chuck Taylors – Just like in 2016, when Liberals and Conservatives alike were targeted with millions of dollars of advertisements from a foreign nation – Just like today, as our political and racial divides grow wider. A moment has quietly passed in society that is desperately important.
This moment was when a small number of humans realized that, by compiling mass amounts of data, they could proactively and intentionally shape our beliefs. They discovered they could funnel consumers to a goal and mold them along the way to behave like the ideal customer, or activist, or citizen, or extremist.