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What’s Missing From Marketing and Campaign Strategies? Situational Identity!

Marketing, advertising, media, and public relations firms have one thing in common; they all try to connect with people. They spend significant time and money to understand what motivates their target audience, develop effective narratives to shape perceptions, influence behavior, and track return on investment to avoid “spray and pray” campaigns. Yet, these organizations continually fail to optimize their interactions because they employ outdated techniques and rely on industry experts or consultants to connect with end users, customers, or target audiences.

Traditional Approach – Targets What

In-house marketing groups, advertising firms, and consultants conduct polls, host focus groups, and buy troves of consumer data to understand a target group. Micro-targeting efforts construct a profile or persona, (e.g., salary of $50,000-60,000, exercises 2-3 times a week, eats out 1-2 times a week, attends church regularly, uses social media at least once a day) of the typical person within a target demographic (e.g., 25-35 year old Hispanic women). Narratives are then designed around the persona, based on previous successful experiences, and tested with focus groups and/or polling. Media campaigns disseminate narratives across different platforms to penetrate the target demographic. Unfortunately, this approach sometimes fails because it: (1) focuses on what people do, not why they do it, and (2) assumes that what people have done will inform future decision-making.

Political campaigns face similar challenges. They hire political consultants—a recently successful campaign manager—to apply the latest ideas and execute the strategy. Moreover, they rely heavily on polling and marketing data to inform data analytics efforts, design communications strategies, drive their ground games, and support fundraising activities. These same techniques and strategies were employed by Jeb Bush supporters who raised $130 million, spending $84 million towards positive advertising and $10 million on consultants. With almost “unlimited” funding the campaign was unable to connect with voters and Jeb dropped out of the race. The Bush campaign epitomizes the failure of traditional approaches. 

Social Science – The Bridge

Social scientists have historically been unable to apply complex theory into real-world scenarios. Practical application of identity politics or identity conflict theory is the solution. Identity, the most fundamental and strongest human need explains why people act the way they do and provides insights into beliefs. Most importantly, identity is the key to creating narratives that trigger strong emotions and actions.

Individuals possess multiple identities across primary (e.g., family, religion, ethnicity, gender) and secondary (e.g., education, occupation, political affiliation) socializations, which requires specialized analysis to pinpoint. Ontology analysis dissects a target group’s world views, narratives, logics of appropriateness, and social structures to uncover identity. Ontology analysis also reveals competing identities, including the active or situational identity within the group.

Situational Identity – Targets Why

Situational identity is the most responsive identity—it drives decision-making and is influenced by the target’s location, environment, and people present. It is the mechanism that allows organizations to answer how and why people think and behave. Situational identity also explains why polls are inaccurate; because the target audience’s answer can be dramatically different depending on the active identity.

Example 1: Do you support access to abortion?

  • Environment A: At a church function with family
    • Situational Identity: Religion
    • Answer: No, because you don’t want to challenge religious beliefs
  • Environment B: At a bar with friends
    • Situational Identity: Social Group – Friend
    • Answer: Yes, because friends are more willing to accept abortion in certain circumstances
  • Traditional Approach: Polling would have logged two contradictory answers

Example 2: Do you believe smoking causes cancer?

  • Environment A: At a doctor’s appointment
    • Situational identity: Educated individual
    • Answer: Yes, because it is scientifically proven
  • Environment B: Wedding reception
    • Situational identity: Social Group – Celebration
    • Answer: No, not when done infrequently
  • Traditional Approach: Uncovers that the person occasionally smokes, but does not determine why they smoke

Theory to Reality: Multi-disciplinary Approach

ENODO Global created an operating platform that employs a multi-disciplinary approach and scientific methodology to pinpoint identity within any demographic. The operating platform blends social science theory—identity conflict—with the most advanced data analytics technologies to pinpoint the dominant identity across primary and secondary socializations. The platform filters, synthesizes, and funnels structured and unstructured data into a customized ontology analysis to produce findings based on the dominant and situational identity for a target demographic. By pinpointing identities, ENODO can design and measure narratives that resonate most positively or negatively with an organization’s target audience.

Marketing, advertising, media, and public relations firms can immediately enhance their business models by integrating ENODO’s operating platform into existing operations. Our technologies are scalable and deliver a repeatable, systematic process designed to seamlessly integrate into any environment. ENODO’s methodology removes the guess work, which enables companies to identify efficiencies, quantify and track results more effectively, and understand why their target audience makes certain decisions.

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