September 16, 2020

Addressable Marketing 101: Converting Known Unknowns to Fully Understand Your Customer

I last wrote about marketing to Known-Knowns (KK); customers who brands know at a granular individual level, those for whom brands have personally identifiable information (PII) and data about what they want. While marketing to KKs can be more efficient (from a ROMI perspective) and enhance customer experiences (from a relevance perspective), many brands don’t yet have all of the data required to do so. In this piece, I want to talk about converting Known Unknowns (KU).


A Business Agency

There are two categories of consumers that are part way down the path to being KKs: the Known Unknowns and Unknown Knowns (UK), the latter of which I’ll cover in the next post. With KUs, a brand knows what they look like and what they value, but doesn’t have the PII, such as email, required to contact them directly. This is often the case when brands have conducted consumer research to develop customer personas, but don’t have a rich CRM database of their own. With UKs, a brand has the PII to reach individual consumers, but they don’t know much else about them — particularly what motivates them to purchase or repeat purchase. This might be the case if a brand captured a consumer’s email when they made a one-off online purchase.

With both groups, the ultimate goal is to convert them to KKs so we can communicate in personalized ways that are most likely to motivate repeat purchase and brand loyalty, but we have different starting points and different assets to work with. While the goal with each is the same, the way we treat them is different.

First, the KUs. These are tricky. KUs refer to the population brands know is out there, who look like their current core customers or their target customers, but who haven’t actually become individually identifiable yet. For instance, a diaper brand knows intuitively that there are moms out there buying diapers from other brands but they don’t necessarily know their names or email addresses, or who they are at an individual level to be able to market to them efficiently. The best they can do is target “women with kids under 2 years old,” and hope to engage some.

Plenty of brands only get as far as having KUs. This is a common challenge in the world of CPG and FMCG where retailers — not the brands — own the direct relationship with the customer. Marketers for these brands often think they know their customer. Maybe it’s a high-level picture of who follows them on social media from a social listening app. Or it’s a third-party summary from Nielsen audience or sales data. And then maybe they’ve gone out and held some focus groups with consumers who look like that to understand them a little better. Maybe they’ve even built some crazy quantitative models out of aggregated sales data or survey data. That got them to a target customer persona, but they don’t know individuals in that group. Continuing with the diapers example, Brand X knows that, generally speaking, their target moms care about price and leak guards, and gentleness on their baby’s skin. But marketers for Brand X don’t know how particular moms rank order those sometimes-competing priorities or messages. And even if those marketers did know what a more granularly segmented group of moms prioritize, they don’t have contact information to send those women tailored 1:1 messages based on their particular concerns.

Less than a decade ago, the core job of most marketers and advertisers was to make compelling campaigns for audiences of KUs. Few brands and categories actually had Known-Knowns (KKs). But now, consumers have become used to being KKs in virtually every consumer category, expecting:

  • Fashion retailers to know what styles they like and send them personalized recommendations
  • Rideshare apps to know their exact location so they can step from their waiting spot right into a car
  • Social platforms not to clutter their feeds with ads for products they don’t care about

Consumers even expect brands who they haven’t “allowed” to fully know them, to personalize experiences at this level. And this expectation transforms the core job of marketers. Now, in addition to our traditional role of figuring out what messages will resonate with consumer audiences, developing compelling creative for those messages, and placing messages in relevant channels, the onus is on us to invent compelling, often experiential, reasons for consumers to take the leap from KU to KK customer status.

That might look like an experience-based loyalty program where benefits are doled out not only based on spend, but also personalized to what you have shown an interest in. Look up how Sephora’s VIB program works if you want an excellent example.

Another common vehicle to convert KUs to KKs is a native mobile app experience. By giving customers a convenient channel that is always traceable to them, and probably has some inherently value-adding features, it removes friction in tracking their behaviors and preferences with your brand.

Because GALE is all about helping clients better understand their customers, our agency integrates big data analytics capabilities with in-house UX and development capabilities to build apps that help clients bridge knowledge gaps about their customers over time.

Robyn Cauchy

Director, CX Strategy & Insights