I’ve been lecturing at a series of marketing events in the last couple of weeks and twice now I’ve been asked what the difference is between interruption and intention marketing and how we as marketers can make use of the two different models. Both times I’ve used the following analogy:

  1. Imagine you were walking down the street and someone shows you a pen. It’s a great pen. You weren’t looking to buy a new pen. You certainly weren’t thinking to buy a yellow pen, but now you’re thinking, hey those pens are nice. Maybe I’ll buy one. This, in essence, is interruption marketing.
  2. Now say the pen you’re writing with runs out of ink. You need a new pen. This is an identifiable need. You search online for a new one and you find a great looking (yellow) pen. You buy it. This is where intention marketing steps in. You’re looking for a pen and have the intention to buy one. The savvy marketeer can get the sale with Google Ads, great SEO and content marketing.

If we seek to drill down further, interruption marketing is, as you can probably guess, anything that interrupts a potential customer in their daily activity. This could be a billboard at a train station, a radio advert, untargeted social media advert or a TV commercial. Our window of opportunity for marketing is very short and as such, we need to ensure our storytelling is on point to capture the imagination of our target demographic. Another way of looking at this type of marketing is that it is ‘outbound’ or marketeer centric.

Intention marketing is, therefore, selling to someone who’s actively looking for what you’re selling. They’ve decided they want ‘a new pen’ and they’re now weighing up whether or not to buy your pens over someone else’s. If we look at a traditional marketing funnel, our potential customer has already bypassed the awareness stage and is now well and truly in the consideration phase. The digital environment is now where intention marketing happens at its best. Google Ads, custom audience ads – triggered by Facebook Pixels and solid SEO to get our clients to the top of Google mean we can provide a solution (a sale) to our customer’s need.

There is one very important consideration to make though, and that is 90% of the time interruption and intention marketing actually work together. If my brand is ‘big yellow pens’ and I’ve already popped up on the radar of my target demographic, although they’ve not bought one of my pens before, they’re likely to view my brand in a more positive light when they’re ready to purchase a pen. This is an important consideration to make. One that links back to branding, design and brand storytelling. This is where we start to rely on what ‘big yellow pens’ say about us as the customer.

Facebook and the problem of context.

It is possible to create laser targeted adverts on Facebook (and Instagram) with incredible effectiveness. Facebook advertising begins with its targeting capabilities. Because we have a very clear idea of our target market we can reach them more directly than ever before. This includes targeting based on job title, interests, geography, age, demographics. If you want to target Male, hipster (oat milk lattes) graphic designers with an interest in pens who are over 30, Facebook will let you.

As a result, only the most qualified individuals see your ad. And this blurs the line between intention and interruption. Unlike TV advertising, adverts are no longer random, instead, they’re relevant and even seem like a natural extension of the rest of our social content.

So where does that leave us?

The lines in all forms of marketing are increasingly blurred. Gone are the days of B2B and B2C (it’s all B2P in reality) And in may ways, now, more than ever, we need to come back to basics, back to the root concepts of getting our storytelling right. If we get the foundations right first, in many ways it doesn’t matter so much where we go from there. The marketing will be effective.