In Greek mythology Kairos was the son of Zeus. Aristotle (the first brilliant marketer) referred to kairos in Rhetoric. In essence, kairos it is about timing. Consider the difficulty of getting a laugh when one muffs the punchline of a joke. Consider the difficulty of getting a click when your ad is for reviews and the user wants prices. For Aristotle kairos was the opportune moment. Finding that very moment when the right message can persuade an action.

I first became familiar with the concept of kairos in B.J. Fogg’s great book Persuasive Technology. Dr. Fogg runs Stanford’s Persuasive Computing Laboratory where they live on the cutting edge of HCI. Much of their work should be of interest online marketers. If you have heard me speak over the past eight months you have heard me extol kairos as a key to successful online marketing.

All users go online with a predetermined goal. In my behavioral research I have found that users consistently have “tunnel vision” as they attempt to complete their goal. They will not respond to any messaging unless it’s contextually relevant i.e. the right message at the right time. But how can we as marketers ensure we hit this moving target when even searchers using the same keyword can have very different goals? How do we find the kairos?

The right message – It amazes me how many businesses, even among the top 20 online advertisers are not segmenting their audience. A 25 year old uses the web to find a pair of running shoes in a different way then a 55 year old even thought both are trying to accomplish the same goal. There are also behavioral differences in search query strings based on segments. We all know different audiences respond differently to the same messages. Segment your audience and then test. You will find the right message and many times it will be unique to each segment.

The right time– Ideally your business or campaign has messaging and content that is relevant to every phase of the purchase cycle. The deeper your audience segmentation the better you can discover common behaviors in this cycle. Take those commonalities and target your messages. Set-up campaigns to test and measure along each step of the goal path. Test across media to discover any cross-media impacts. Also look at the impact one set of messages has on another. Any don’t view the metrics in a vacuum. I know of one business that looked at metrics for their high funnel keywords and saw so few conversions and such a high CPA that they stopped running them. Much to their surprise a few days later their overall conversion volume took a nosedive. Seems customers were getting their first look from the high volume, high cost terms but would convert a few days later on more specific queries. They had found the kairos, and they didn’t even know it.

As online advertising becomes more targeted so to does the importance of kairos. Also keep in mind these same principles apply equally well to your website. Take the time necessary to define your audience. Then test targeted messaging delivery to them along each step in the goal path. Soon you will find the kairos.



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One response to “Kairos”

  1. Jamie Roche Avatar

    Can’t you capture the “saw high cost/low conversion” “converted on specific queries?” using viewthrough?


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