It’s easy to make assumptions about people based on the car they drive. Nissan Leaf drivers must be keen environmentalists. Mercedes drivers are no doubt business executives on their way to an important meeting. And if you see a lady driving a Range Rover, she’s probably going to pick up her kids from school.

These stereotypes are as pointless as they are crude. There are any number of reasons why people buy a certain brand or model, and this highlights the limitations of traditional methods of targeting potential customers, such as advertising luxury brands only in high-end lifestyle publications or people carriers in family-oriented media.

Neither does current cookie-based marketing solve the problem, with three-quarters of cookies deleted every month, and two-thirds of IP-connected devices not even accepting cookies. It’s clear that the industry needs a better way of reaching actual people across all the devices they own, rather than simply making assumptions.

Instead of categorising people by generic demographic data points, people-based marketing enables car brands to target people based on their lifestyles, shopping habits, travel preferences, social media interests and much more. By combining and layering data points from multiple identity level sources, marketers can build multifaceted customer segments that provide fresh insights about consumers and new, more effective ways of targeting them.

Power of data

To show the power of multiple data sources coming together, Viant has launched an exhaustive study of two million UK car shoppers, based on our database of 24.5 million registered users. The research weaves together hundreds of individual data points to build the most comprehensive picture of individual car buyers.

To give you just a few highlights from the report, we know that Fiat is millennials’ favourite vehicle brand, BMW drivers are more than twice as likely to shop in Selfridges than Ford owners, and Aldi customers are most likely to drive a Nissan. Meanwhile on social media, we found that Ford drivers are more interested in cooking content, BMW drivers are attracted to sports, and family life appeals to Nissan owners.

By knowing where people live, shop, eat and travel, we can start tailoring campaigns to reach the right person at the right time and place. For example, knowing a consumer’s preferred airline and how often they fly enables brands to better target advertising strategies at drivers when they are travelling to the airport, in the terminal, or in-flight.

Tracking sales

Perhaps there once was a good reason for making an assumption about someone based on the car they drove. In the pre-digital age, your purchase decision would be defined by the ads in the newspaper, the dealership in your neighbourhood or the programmes you watched on TV. Today, however, the marketing funnel and paths to purchase are infinitely more complicated.

Customers might see advertising across multiple devices, multiple channels and in many different formats before deciding to make a purchase. When they do, it’s often difficult to track how the online activity resulted in offline sales.

A people-based approach allows you to track these offline sales. By knowing the individual who saw your ad rather than relying on inaccurate guesswork from cookies it’s possible to pinpoint which customers saw your ads and whether they went in store and purchased as a result. With the vast majority of car sales made offline in showrooms, being able to track ROI in this way is invaluable to marketers to help them to demonstrate how online marketing is boosting their bottom line.

We now have the chance not just to know much more about consumers, but to use this insight to establish direct relationships and target them with personalised messages across all manner of print, digital, social and experiential channels. With data about real individuals, it’s possible to link multiple devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop) to a single user and deliver a personalised story of advertising – making choosing the order and frequency people see ads.

Marketers are already reaping the benefits of this approach – 83% say people-based marketing performs better than cookie-based and in 2017, marketers predicted they’d spend 40% of their digital advertising budgets on people-based campaigns.

This won’t just mean consumers get a more personalised and relevant advertising experience, but brands adopting this people-based marketing approach will also reap huge ROI rewards. Once you can track an individual from the moment they saw an ad to their purchase in-store, it will show the real impact online advertising can have.