Life: The Marketer’s Secret Weapon


As Benjamin Franklin once wrote to a friend, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” It’s an apt phrase to use when considering the complexity of marketing anything (except perhaps funeral services) to thousands of individuals, each with their own hopes, aims, preferences and aspirations.

However, there are a few things in life that we can be fairly certain that people will experience at some point. People will move house, change jobs, get married, have kids, or go travelling. It may be that only one of these ‘life events’ actually occurs, but when it does, it presents a compelling opportunity for brands to connect with their customers. Conversely, it can also represent a big risk to maintaining the loyalty of customers.

After all, when we undergo a ‘life event’, the change does not happen in a vacuum. If you move house, chances are you will also review your finances, consider different utility suppliers, get new insurance and buy new furniture. You may also change your shopping habits, have a different commute… and it could be the prelude to another life event such as marriage, a new job or having a child.

Surprisingly, according to recent research by the Royal Mail, few marketers realise a ‘life event’ represents an excellent opening to reach a consumer. Only a third of marketers identified it as an opportunity to increase sales. One explanation for this is that marketers may not feel that they can pinpoint when these life events will occur. Certainly, using traditional marketing methods, being able to determine when someone is getting a new job or having a child is no more than a best guess based on their demographic information.

Now, thanks to the sheer volume of data that the average consumer transmits and advances in data science, it’s much easier to identify when a life event is occurring. By connecting the dots between social media activity, online browsing behaviour, purchasing history and other factors, a brand can say with a fair degree of certainty if a major change is happening in its prospective or current customer’s life. The marketing campaign can then be tailored accordingly to allow the most relevant message or offer to reach that customer, at the precise moment they will be most open to it.

For example, the data may indicate that a customer is looking for a job. A clothing retailer can target that individual with a special offer for business clothing or shoes. Moving house? Utility suppliers can contact the individual with offers to tempt them to switch supplier. The list can go on from the obvious to the more subtle – getting married? Target the customer with gym membership offers or fitness equipment.

Pretty much every business could increase their marketing effectiveness by identifying a life event and capitalising accordingly. The trick is to invest in data monitoring, collection and analysis. Many businesses already have a lot of information about their customers; however, they fail to pay for the resources that extract the maximum value. Hiring data scientists and the appropriate technology platforms and placing these resources within a marketing department can dramatically improve the intelligence of a standard campaign.

At this point, it’s worth sounding a note of caution: any campaign based on actual events in a customer’s life needs to be balanced with respect for their privacy , to avoid triggering the ‘creepiness’ reflex. The marketing campaign has to offer something of tangible benefit to the recipient because of the life event. Put simply – it shouldn’t be a message saying ‘Dear X, heard you’re getting married, here’s our weekly newsletter.’

By making the recipient feel special, by giving them a genuinely good offer or invaluable information that will help them with the important change in their life will outweigh the risk of creepiness, increase the chance of a conversion, and crucially, build brand affection.