Relevance marketing is one of those terms that is hard to disagree with. Joel Rubinson recently made a great case for it.

The words themselves sound unassailable. Who would argue that marketing shouldn’t be relevant? Of course it makes sense to tailor marketing  to be more appropriate, and now we have better tools than ever before to do it. But there are more effective and less effective ways to be relevant in shopper marketing. Let’s look at Who, What and Where.


Media buying often focuses attention on relevant individuals.  Marketing  lingo is replete with “audiences,” “segments,” “target markets” and the like.

But there’s a problem with the “who,” and that is finding enough of them. For most consumer products and services, the “core market” still does not comprise the majority of sales, something the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute has proven.

Most marketers are not able to direct 100% of media to their idealized buyers (assuming they know who they are) and still hit their numbers. New and light buyers are critical to brand growth, yet marketers know the least about them. They may be older, more rural and/or less wealthy and be missed by a laser focus on the “core target.” So who relevance can be narrow to a fault.


Another focus of attention is relevance in message. Reaching a consumer mindset with the right creative should in theory lead to better notice and recall.

Or does it. Should creative actually be relevant? Will it better connect with shoppers if it tells them what they expect to hear? Or is it more likely to break through if it shows them something unexpected? Some of the best creative is irrelevant and irreverent (say hello to meerkats )

What relevance is therefore a gamble.


Where relevance allows marketers to reach scale, focus spend, and face less uncertainty.

“Where” doesn’t mean websites or magazines—that’s backing into “who” again. “Where” means place-based media.  But this isn’t just screens in elevators, TVs in health clubs, or animated panels on bus shelters. There is a better place where a consumer is undeniably thinking about buying things and that is the store.

DS-IQ’s development of intelligent DOOH makes in-store marketing more relevant and meaningful to marketers. It does so in three ways:

1. Targeting. DS-IQ technology targets campaigns by stores (high indexing markets, competitive strongholds, etc.), and times (weekend versus weekday, local back-to-school dates, etc.).  After campaigns have started, smart systems can tune campaigns by current conditions (outside temperature, in-store inventory levels, etc.).

2. Scale. The Walmart Smart Network, powered by DS-IQ, has an audience of 140MM shoppers per week. This is more than a Superbowl and about the same as the first 7 days of the Vancouver Olympics—every week. A seasonal campaign can reach half the US population at a 2.5+ average frequency.

3. Cross-media. DS-IQ’s digital in-store marketing works with online display advertising to prime shoppers before the store. Retail screens channel shoppers to opt in to mobile programs to engage them after the point of purchase.

Where relevance makes a lot more sense.

Now, what about location-based marketing? Isn’t that the answer, too? Well, most location-based marketing applications such as Foursquare and Shopkick offer a rough approximation of where the shopper is in relation to stores or other retail outlets. They can add orientation around products when shoppers scan barcodes. Yet services such as TNS’ PathTracker have shown over the years that shopper behavior is far more influenced by their physical location in the store (back, front, perimeter, center) and where they are in their trip (beginning, middle, end).

Further, mobile alone isn’t reaching the scale marketers need. A survey by the Location Based Marketing Association  explains why 83% of people don’t use location-based apps:

  • 50% don’t own a smartphone
  • 49% had no motivation to use location-based services
  • 48% had privacy concerns

In-store digital screens, on the other hand, are noticed by upwards of 40% of shoppers, according to a 2009 study by Nielsen. And screen media such as the Walmart Smart Network have been designed with a knowledge of shopper trip patterns.

Abbott and Costello told us Who’s on first and What’s on second. Where should marketers go for relevance in shopper marketing? Exactly.

Categories: Analytics, In-store, Pre-store | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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  1. marketing movers

    Relevance and Reach are two critical factors in media planning. Digital marketing does a great job of the former, but this often results in media “nuggets” that are not scalable. Mobile is just the latest example of this. Traditional marketing does a great job of the latter, but with a lot of waste.

    Thinking through place-based relevance is surely important, but it doesn’t really matter unless the “where” is a large enough venue like Walmart

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