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Mind-set Over Marketing

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Don't mess with people when they are paying their bills -- unless you can help. Passion time is private time. So stay away, unless you share that passion, too.

But when people are online to be entertained or just shooting the digital breeze with friends, they're all yours.
 
Those are just a few of the nuggets of wisdom unearthed by an elaborate study conducted by Yahoo and MediaVest on the importance of consumer mind-set in online advertising. According to the study, in an era where buyers are seemingly ignoring the importance of context and environment in favor of reaching exact audiences, Yahoo and MediaVest have found that mind-set is still crucial to successful online marketing.

For example, when looking to accomplish a goal such as paying their bills, 52 percent of the study's respondents said they were giving full attention to that goal. And 58 percent of those folks said they didn't want to be interrupted by advertising at that time (unless, perhaps, advertising related to bill paying).

Similarly, when users are online in pursuit of their passion -- be it sailing or religion -- they demonstrate a similar correlation between being fully immersed and less receptive to unrelated advertising.

But that doesn't mean that advertising has to be related to the content or activity with which a person is engaged. The study found that when users are online to connect with friends or in search of entertainment, i.e., surfing the Web, far fewer claimed to be completely immersed in what they are doing. Just 42 percent of respondents claimed they didn't want to be bothered when connecting with friends, and 47 percent of users made the same claim about entertainment on the Web.

According to the study's findings, that's when brands have a better chance to reach users with unexpected or unrelated ads.

To reach its conclusions, Yahoo and MediaVest surveyed more than 3,300 respondents on the Web. The two companies also recruited Internet users to complete online diaries in which they logged their Web usage. Plus, Yahoo and MediaVest researchers conducted in-depth personal interviews with a cross-section of demographic groups.

The big take-away -- as sophisticated as online ad targeting has become -- is that "[we] have to be much smarter about how we use [advertising], and user mind-sets can make us much smarter," said Radha Subramanyam, vp, head of corporate and media research at Yahoo. "Going online is about everything from researching a disease to catching up with a best friend." Brands must consider those two very different activities when planning and executing campaigns.

When it comes to online entertainment, "pretty much anything goes," said Subramanyam.

But should brands stay away completely when Web users are in research or passion mode? "There are not any places where you shouldn't advertise at all," she said. "But when advertising to a user exploring their passion, a brand needs to match the tone of their passion."