How Pinterest Reveals And Predicts Consumer Behavior

Brad Spychalski, Pinterest's Creative Strategy Lead, explains how brands can utilize the social channel


For digital marketing as an industry, consumer use of social media presents unbelievable opportunities. Of any brand’s audience, a significant portion will share details about their interests and their activities online, often publicly and regularly. Through collecting and analyzing this information, brands can use social to build a picture of their audience both as a whole and separated into subgroups, with every like and hashtag monitored to help marketers stay on trend. At the Digital Marketing Innovation Summit last September 11 & 12, Pinterest’s Creative Strategy Lead, Brad Spychalski, led the audience through the opportunities presented by Pinterest for brands to better understand their customers.

Brands will spend millions of dollars on market research to better understand their consumers. It’s such a big part of strategy that marketers are constantly looking for ways to do it more effectively and cheaply. Pinterest, as Brad points out, has convinced its users to perform it themselves. ‘Literally, people, humans, are curating, in this case, the world’s largest focus group,’ Brad says. ‘They’re literally doing it as part of the service. They are saying ‘this matches with this, this with this’ based on their individual likes, preferences, and tastes.’

Brad explains that Pinterest’s audience tends to be planning for big life moments that can quite clearly give brands an idea of what they’re interested in at any given time. ‘Compared to non-Pinners, a Pinner [Pinterest user] is going to be nine times more likely to be having a baby, three times more likely to be planning an event, home remodels etc., very planning-minded focused things, big life moments.’

But Brad then goes on to explain that these aren’t necessarily what brands should be focusing on. ‘The ones not to necessarily sleep on are the everyday moments. So, when you break it down, 61% are going to be those everyday things. And what’s everyday?’ Brad gives the examples of people planning a gardening project that weekend or choosing a light meal to make when they get home that evening. Everyday could be planning an outfit for date night at the weekend, or something as simple as being a better parent, something people do on a daily basis.

Pinterest is less for the moments like watching a sunset or roasting marshmallows – the kind of thing you might associate with Instagram or Facebook – and more the details around an occasion. It’s these details that will be interesting to brands. Brad gives an example of a trip to Lake Tahoe: ‘If I go to Pinterest, it’s probably if I have to fly in, how do I get there? If it’s in the winter, do I need snow tires, all that stuff. Where am I going to stay? What am I going to do there? Obviously, you can see the impact for a brand, to be up front of the experience before you even get there.’ From a Pinterest board in the run-up to a trip, brands can see what food you’ll be interested in, what clothes you might be looking to wear, how you plan on traveling to the location – all incredibly valuable information. ‘You can see how many different industries can play into this one simple use case.’ Importantly, Pinterest users tend to plan well in advance, so brands can have a knowledge of their interests further upstream than many might think.

Brad then gives an example of this working in practice, an instance of a brand working with Pinterest to identify trends and act on them. ‘In the wellness space, what I thought was really unique was a 2000% increase in ab exercises, but not the everyday crunch one that you got taught in high school gym class, but taking it a little bit differently. So, we worked with Adidas to pull together both the ab workout plus another sub-trend around ‘buddy workouts.’ Brad and his team created a video with the sportswear giant that features two influencers that shows them working out together, performing core exercises in Adidas sportswear. In this use case, the branded product is secondary, with the story coming first, but it acts as a useful piece of targeted advertising to promote Adidas and its association with wellness.

Another example Brad gives is the 300% increase in people favoring the snow to the beach when planning trips in the San Francisco area. It’s a trend Pinterest can identify months in advance when people start pinning exactly the things mentioned earlier in this article. They’ll pin ideas for cold-weather clothing, ideal cabin locations, travel information – all of this information is available for brands to utilize long before the user starts actually making purchases. In this sense, Brad insists that Pinterest is a great place for brands to test content that they would later use on different platforms. ‘Creating for Pinterest first,’ he says, ‘really makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Especially for those bigger moments, when people are already looking and showing intent months in advance, how do you test the content in this environment and then run your winners on other channels?’

Pinterest represents a unique opportunity for brands hoping to identify the long-term interests of their audiences. The site is so valuable because its users will willingly create mood boards related to their interests, and any identifiable trend is user-driven by definition. Brands can work with Pinterest to create on-trend content, test campaigns before opening them up to wider audiences and, get a picture of what their customers will be interested in months down the line. Pinterest is the fifth-most-popular social networking app in the US, above both Snapchat and Reddit, and all brands should consider working with people like Brad to shape their content output.

You can hear more from other industry-leading digital strategy executives at the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit, taking place in New York this February 27 & 28. To see the full schedule, click here.

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