Today, three out of four smartphone owners turn to Google first to address their immediate needs. As a result, Google marketers like me must survive on our ability to play on your impatience and impulsiveness when you’re using a mobile device. We must be there to serve you an ad in your “micro-moment,” the second you decide to use your phone to alleviate the discomfort of not having “it” now — whether “it” is a last-minute sale, directions to a soon-closing store, information about a fast-filling class, or anything else.
As Google plainly phrases it, micro-moments are the “intent-rich moments when decisions are made, and preferences shaped.” This belies what Google can’t say: Your need-it-now mentality usually comes with uncomfortable feelings of anxiety and fear. When you’re shopping in this mindset (for anything, not just a product), your restraint is clouded by emotion. Your immediate transactional, navigational, or informational “need” is conflated with a desire for your bad feelings to go away.
In reality, Google’s goal (and our goal, as Google marketers) is to separate you from as much of your money as possible every time you aren’t thinking clearly —and we do so through ads. Micro-moments are so important to Google’s bottom line that, since a May 2016 keynote, Google has taught us marketers how to best leverage them against you. We do this by serving the ad best suited to your flavor of impulse, and by making sure we’re there for each of those impulses. In a perfect world, marketers would be trained to help you use Google well when you are of an impressionable mind. Instead, we’re taught to exploit your befuddlement.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, you have micro-moments about 150 times per day. You will see ads during most of them. These ads speak to what you seek; play on emotions that are unlike you; and fit your age, income, gender, location, and browsing history (as well as other targeting methods I outlined in part 1). Marketers who can’t serve ads in your moments of ephemeral distress die a quick death.
Desperation in consumerism is nothing new. Consumerism relies on it. But today, the degree of targetable desperation with ads is unprecedented. Micro-moments are a very recent phenomenon. They have only been made possible in the last few years due to specific conditions:
- The number of cellphones in consumers’ hands has hit critical mass.
- Our relationship with our phones has changed.
- Our relationship with Google has changed.