Micro targeting with big data

Lending TreeThis morning, my wife Yukari Watanabe Scott noticed a fascinating advertisement on her Facebook. The ad, for LendingTree, depicted a mixed-race family with one child.

While it could be coincidence, this got us to thinking if she was shown the advertisement because she has an Asian name and Facebook knows she is married to me. And have they figured out we have one child? Do they know we own our home too?

Was this advertisement a result of big data crunching of Facebook demographics to find a small slice of Americans? Maybe. Maybe not.

One or the other? No, both.

In my experience, it is rare to see mixed-race families in advertising. It seems that advertisers are so focused on traditional demographics, that they don’t realize the changing nature of America.

Because America is such a politically correct place, advertisers focus on getting the right numbers of white, black, Hispanic, and Asian faces in their ads. But they forget about the interesting combinations of those races that are part of American culture today.

The President of the United States is multiracial. Yet nearly all commentators describe Barack Obama as “black” or “African American.” It is very rare to hear him described as Multiracial. And I’ve never, ever heard President Obama described as “white” or “Caucasian” even though he is half white. Yet is that definition any more wrong than identifying him as black?

I’ve had some interesting discussions with our daughter about the various forms she’s had to fill out for things like a drivers license, university applications, job and internship applications, and the like. Some force her to check either “Caucasian” or “Asian.” In this case she chooses “other.” Sometimes forms allow for multiple check boxes for race, so she will check both “Caucasian” and “Asian.” Other forms have given her the option to select “mixed race.”

Because of citizen requests, the 2000 US Census for the first time allowed US residents to identify as multiracial by checking more than one ethnicity. According to the 2010 US Census, 9 million people or 2.9 percent of the population identifies themselves as mixed race.

Multiracial Americans are the least marketed to group there is. Which is why I was so interested in that LendingTree ad.

By the way, I’m imagining a world 250 years from now when racial distinctions will be looked upon as quaint because there will be so many people who are mixed.

Micro targeting with big data

The promise of big data is that advertisers can identify a micro target of a population and create content that is designed especially for them.

This ability rewards marketers who understand that buyers can’t be split according to the old rules of race, gender, age, and income.

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