Ten Intent Triggers for Digital Media


It has long been my belief that the ability to create intent would define web monetization but I had no idea it would play out (and literally “play” out as in Zynga et al) the way it has. Certainly we are at the dawn of a new age where technology powers marketing in more powerful and relevant ways. Never has more intent been created. Never has intent been more monetized and never has the cost of not creating intent been higher.

I thought I would share this list I’ve been using for the past few years with creating search and display ads and landing pages. Feel free to add any intent triggers in the comments below.

Ten Intent Triggers for Digital Media

Motivating Action – The psychological condition of reward is not new to marketing strategy but it forms the backbone of creating intent and persuasion. Understanding it and using it appropriately can yield great rewards…or stickers and badges.

Cause and Effect – This is really helpful for people in discovery mode on the web. Think how intent can be created for a loan refinance business by having a savings calculator on their homepage. An offline example is the calorie burn rate calculator updated in real-time while you are on a treadmill. This trigger can be very helpful to push people through online forms/applications as well.

Observation – Watching something can create intent. Voyeuristic tendencies and desires have been leveraged by marketers well before P.T. Barnum’s first sideshow in 1835 and Facebook today. According to Nielsen 80% of social network behavior is voyeuristic. Also, the gating of this behavior (paywalls) can create intent as can the very behavior itself (think porn).

Visual Attractiveness – It is incredibly important to note that attractiveness takes many forms online. From the design aesthetic of forms to landing pages to full sites to images, we know from testing that visual presentation is a key to creating intent.

Reciprocity – Digital Media presents a bevy of opportunities to create intent in this form. It is a core strategy of creating intent in social networks. Personally, I had never done a LinkedIn recommendation until one was done for me and I felt a desire to return the favor. Reciprocity is a social norm found in every society ever studied.

Trust and Credibility – These are two factors that often turn interest into intent. Their power can range from the most important of factors of influence to the least depending on the timing and placement of these messages. In a strange twist of fate it’s where all the ROI from branding dollars takes place yet it’s the most vulnerable to customer empowerment driven by the social web.

Incentives – If you incent, you will intent. Coupons, loyalty rewards, closeouts, sales — these methodologies are tried and true intent creators. Email and affiliate marketing are two early examples of the technology shift that enabled offer marketing to gain power. Offers are by far the most successful way to create intent and encompass a number of underlying intent creation strategies. As technology advances I believe we will be able to use it to create intent in ways that incredibly more targeted, relevant and powerful than “Click to Get a Free iPhone.”

Disposition – An intention will also be more easily created if there is disposition that can be leveraged. This is the reason why some sites have higher conversions on the 15th and 30th of the month (payday).

Impulse – These triggers are in the context of a response or action in response to an intention. As every supermarket checkout person knows impulse is incredibly powerful for marketers. Digital is the perfect medium to create impulse because marketers can immediately deliver. On the web creating impulse is often a technology problem but that doesn’t mean it has to be thought of less strategically than other factors of motivation.

Competition – This takes many forms from keeping up with the Jones to the the Hashable leaderboard. It is obviously a key component of most social platforms as well as the online gaming and virtual currency spaces. Competition breeds virality. Competition motivates.

There are probably more psychological intent triggers than this list and certainly new executions of triggering are created everyday. An amazing place to learn more is the seminal book from 2002, Persuasive Technology.

What’s most important to understand with all these techniques is that to create intent our marketing must be emergent – meaning it must take people’s latent motivations and/or existing interest and deliver an ability to act. Intent triggers are an action suggestion or action tool — ideally both. Intent triggers can be implicit or explicit but they must be realtime.

With the growth of realtime content delivery and new platforms for measurement, testing and optimization we are just beginning to create the technology that will trigger intent and power web monetization in the coming years. Exciting and profitable times are ahead for much of digital media and that is important, especially for publishers. My finger is on the trigger.



5 responses to “Ten Intent Triggers for Digital Media”

  1. Geordie Avatar

    Sweet list Jonathan, Thanks!


  2. Niel Robertson Avatar

    Really excellent article. I have lots of ideas about how this applies to PPC ads, technology UIs, etc..
    Thanks for taking the time to write it up.


  3. Jonathan Mendez Avatar

    Thanks Geordie and Niel.
    Niel, No question micro-intent around UI and ads can leverage these ideas. I would look forward to hearing your thoughts on it sometime.


  4. Armil@tkts Avatar

    This is very informative , I am really thankful about this. It would be great that it will elaborate the information better.


  5. Igor Avatar

    Great summary, and also great book suggestion. This is just what I needed, hopefully it will be as easy to implement on my new website.


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