Marketers have understood the basics of demographics for a long time, and it has helped them make slightly more informed decisions about who to market to in order to maximize spend. For example, if women of working age were more likely to buy pantyhose, creating ads that spoke to them helped drive more purchases. Simple.
Later on, psychographics provided the intersection of demographics and interest — helping marketers understand how interests or attitudes expressed online might impact consumer opinion and purchase decision. For example, psychographic marketing could display a link between what someone shared on social media and what they bought in the real world — a huge step forward. Demographics never gave marketers a view of the emotion behind a purchase decision, and psychographics started to provide that.
The next layer was behavioral marketing, capturing information in near real time about important data points like keyword usage. With keyword tracking and analysis, the online research process before purchase was no longer a separate funnel. Behavioral marketing gave marketers a view of people doing research, essentially in real time — and showed where that research might lead, and what that consumer might click.
How does all of this tie into the new era of intent marketing strategy? Well, just layer intent on top of all of this, extending the marketing funnel upward. Consumer intent is what leads to the research itself. For example, imagine that someone wakes up and thinks, "I want a cup of coffee." That question models their intent (to drink coffee) and all the steps they'll take to get there — whether that's searching for coffee to brew at home or looking for a coffee shop nearby. The idea is that all the steps taken on the way to a particular action — in this case, to enjoying a great cup of coffee — theoretically become predictable once we understand the intent. That's immensely powerful.
As search has evolved from keywords to questions, the ability to get hyper-specific and understand the way intent informs a non-linear purchase journey that begins online matters more than ever. Understanding all of the data that comes from demographic, psychographic, and behavioral marketing allows marketers to get smarter about intent, predict journeys that once seemed unpredictable, and provide a better, more targeted experience along the way.
This holistic view of intent is important, but it can be difficult to capture. Remember that consumer self-discovery happens in real time. Let's keep going with the coffee example: Say that customer had their intended cup of coffee and enjoyed the taste — but then decided they didn't like feeling jittery because of the caffeine. Now, their intent is layered: It has become "Tomorrow, I'll get decaf so I can still enjoy coffee, but remove the jitters."
As a business, you need to understand the totality of this experience. How? Let's use Starbucks as the coffee example: Starbucks knows that some people are negatively affected by caffeine. They won't market about that negative, but they can market to the positives about the caffeine-free drinks they also offer. Intent marketing informs specific targeting, to be sure, but understanding the breadth of differing consumer intents should also inform how you market and talk about your products more generally.