Niche marketing, or narrowcasting, is not a new concept in the throes of marketing and advertising trenches. As early as the 1960’s, during the “Golden Age” of television, psychologist and computer scientist J.C.R. Licklider coined the term in a report on public broadcasting. He described his vision of narrowcasting as “a multiplicity of television networks aimed at serving the needs of smaller, specialized audiences.
Licklider was alluding to a notion of broadcasting that would focus on appealing to targeted, niche markets rather than continuing as a uniform, mass-market entertainment medium. By analyzing and defining interests, trends, and values, broadcast networks should begin to understand which audiences prefer what types of entertainment and advertising, and serve those audiences accordingly.
Licklider’s 1967 report on Narrowcasting was quite revolutionary for its time, and probably a bit scrutinized. This would mean more work and data analysis on the part of marketers and broadcasters, requiring expensive technological innovations and manpower. But the potential benefits of greater fan loyalty and increased marketing conversions, it was thought, may indeed prove to outweigh the costs.
In the early years of network television, the three major networks—ABC, CBS, and NBC—monopolized the market share. These networks provided broad content aimed at a general public, with almost no competition beyond one another. This negated the evolution of target marketing, as there was no competitive pressure to understand audiences and hence narrow programming to fit targeted demand.
Then came cable television, with a slew of niche networks focused on subscriptions by very specific demographics. MTV went after the 18- to 35-year-old music lovers; CNN targeted the 35- to 65-year-old news watchers; Sports channels appealed to sports fans; Science channels were for the brains. Audiences began to find networks and programs that were developed precisely for their interests, and thus advertisers could find just the right places to target their potential customers. Eventually, the days of a mass market approach were trumped by a more narrow method, as it consistently resulted in greater fan loyalty and advertisers’ brand development.
Narrowcasting Evolves with Technology
This was precisely the setting for a massively fragmented, ultra targeted informational feed to take hold. Enter the Internet—a place for anyone with any interest to find exactly what they’re looking for in the largest collaboration of entertainment, news, and advertising ever developed.
With digital technologies, tracking and analyzing consumer data has become easier and commonplace. A whole new marketing generation has therefore emerged, defaulting to niche advertising as they serve ads based on geo-location, consumer behavior, and a number of other targeted parameters. And in the last decade, as the world goes Mobile, transitioning from desktop browsing to internet access on phones, mobile marketing tactics such as SMS Text marketing are benefiting wildly from targeted marketing. According to a report by Mogreet more than 97% of texts are opened, whereas only 12% of emails are read. The average person reportedly looks at their phone 150 times a day, while over half the population check their emails less than five times a day.
Telephone marketing strategies, such as voice broadcasting and mass SMS marketing, is proving extremely competitive even against the largest, highly targeted social media sites. In 2012, for example, Facebook stopped allowing business fan page messages to show up on 85% of that business’ fans’ newsfeeds, even though they had opted in, which makes Facebook campaigns much less conversion friendly and generally fruitless. Even less valuable than Facebook is Twitter, with 99% of advertising tweets thrown out as SPAM.
So why have mobile advertising strategies become the front runner in conversions and open-rates? The marketing world has been fairly slow to catch on, it turns out. Mobile users are still used to receiving texts and calls from friends and other trusted sources, and aren’t expecting a mass amount of SPAM or marketing communications as they do with email and web browsing. Mobile communication is still an intimate form of communicating with a consumer base, and since customers must opt-in to receive a mobile marketing campaign, brands are well served by targeting an audience who has requested to be engaged.
This is the ultimate form of Narrowcasting—targeting consumers who are not only behaviorally relevant, based on purchasing habits and interests, but also who have actually chosen to be involved in marketing communications. Targeting a demographic that fits this criteria through a medium that has such high open rates and such a personal feel has transformed marketing tactics forever. As more brands learn to effectively connect with customers via mobile technology, advertising will become more specific based on interests, subsequently becoming more valuable for brands and less burdensome for consumers.