BehaviorThere are some dramatic differences between an approach to integrated marketing communications (IMC) and traditional marketing. The one that seems to be the hardest for traditional marketers (and media buyers in particular) to get their smart heads around is this: Buying behavior, not demographics or psychographics, should drive strategy. When you’re working on a synchronized campaign between multiple channels, it’s more important to know how people behave than who they are.

When marketers really, really get this, remarkable things happen. You may think something has gone viral, when really it’s a well-played IMC strategy at work. Let’s take Warby Parker as an example. Although Eric Markowitz at Inc. wrote that “not spending on unnecessary marketing” was one reason for the company’s 500% growth in no time, that’s not quite right. What they didn’t do was try to launch a brand aimed at a certain consumer. Or maybe they did, and failed. Not being Warby Parker’s CMO, I can’t say. What I can say is that the company reached its first year revenue goals…in the first three weeks after it launched. By the sixth week, they had a 20,000 person waiting list.

What I do know is that the first round of editorials Mr. Markowitz mentions in his 2012 article were beautifully timed with social media. An on-the-ground tour of Warby Parker ambassadors the following year was preceded by excellent earned media. Digital marketing buys were clever, and closely tied (especially on Facebook) to consumer behavior.

Here’s the kicker. 53-year old marketing me walked into a party and spotted my 16-year old friend Abbi. We simultaneously pointed at each other’s specs and shouted “Warby Parker.”

This launch wasn’t about demographics. It was about behavior. Warby Parker markets to those who buy glasses frequently. People who like to save money. Those who love to buy online. Those who read that intersection between style and news. Our activity was targeted with a clever IMC campaign that took advantage of digital tactics but didn’t ignore the power of traditional, but cheaper, earned media.

These days we can find out just about anything about our customers. But it’s what they do and how they buy that matters most. If we can influence every stage of the buying cycle, from identifying the problem to post-purchase behavior, it really doesn’t matter if they went to college or not.

What this means is that small fries like Warby Parker can take advantage of influencing behavior instead of expensive advertising launches. Personas are important not because we know Sally has blonde hair. They’re important because we know how Sally likes to buy.

Stay tuned for more on how to predict, analyze and measure behavior. In the meantime, here is my latest presentation from the PRSA Strategic Collaboration Conference on May 24, 2016.