Carl Jung once said, “You are what you do, not what you say you'll do.” Human behaviour is both profoundly observable and incredibly revealing. Like body language, people’s online behaviour can provide valuable insight, clearly indicating their thoughts, feelings and intentions. In other words, digital behaviours are signals that prospective consumers are leaving all over the web. Here Google’s Gayle Tait discusses the impact of technology on behaviour, and what these shifts in behaviour mean for brands. 

May 2015

Just think for a moment about how much life has changed over the last 15 years. Remember phone boxes? Or carrying coins to feed the parking meter? Having to memorise postcodes? Or getting the weather forecast from the evening news? These behaviours seem quaint to modern eyes, which have grown accustomed to the entirely new behaviours that have emerged in their place. 

The single biggest change is mobile. We now spend more time on mobile devices than on personal computers. In the UK, 74% of people own a smartphone, and projections forecast mobile to be the third largest medium by ad spend next year after TV and the rest of the Internet. 

In this environment, we need to stop thinking of mobile as a device. The truth is, mobile is a behaviour, and that behaviour is changing us and the way we live. It means we’re more spontaneous and opportunistic, we engage in smaller bursts of activity throughout the day, we’re less prone to plan ahead and we can – and do – change our minds at the last minute. The world checks a mobile phone more than 100 billion times a day. For brands, that’s a 100 billion moments to understand and reach out to consumers every single day. 

Because behaviour signals the intentions people have, it means marketing has moved from the attention economy to the intention economy. The shift is from a focus on perceptions to a focus on actions, and from interrupting people who are doing something they enjoy to inviting people to do something they enjoy. 

There is no better way to gauge intention than search. We don’t just ask ‘what’, but also ‘why’ and ‘how’ and ‘where’. Searches for ‘how to’ have tripled in the last three years. In only the last year in the UK there were 2 billion beauty and personal care searches on Google and 500 million on YouTube – each one of these representing a moment to engage consumers with precisely the answer they are looking for. 

As a place where people create, broadcast and share, YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet after Google. In the UK, it reaches more people than any other online platform – 86% of the country’s population – and more ABC1s than commercial TV stations. It also offers smarter ways of targeting consumers than ever before. On YouTube, you can show the most engaging content to the specific audiences that you know will engage most with it. 

Today, 50% of the YouTube audience is watching on mobile. A recent Ipsos research study shows that, compared to TV viewing, people watching mobile video are twice as likely to expect advertising to fit with the content they’re watching. 

All this presents a new challenge for marketers. It’s time to think differently about the way brands engage consumers. In the attention economy, the rule was the bigger the screen, the more outstanding the content needed to be. But today we’ve got to flip that on its head: the smaller the screen, the more outstanding the content needs to be. We need to re-imagine the old rules for the new intention economy.