Intent vs Interest | Outbrain Blog


Intent vs Interest: How to Tap Into the Unconscious Mind of Consumers

| Gilad de Vries

“The conscious mind determines the actions, the unconscious mind determines the reactions; and the reactions are just as important as the actions.” – E. Stanley Jones

Did you know that our mind is actually made up of two different smaller minds, which operate in different ways and provide different functions?

The unconscious mind consists of all our automatic instincts and habits. The conscious mind consists of the things that we do of our own will.

The unconscious mind comprises 99% of our brain and results in most of our behavior while the conscious mind produces only a fraction of our daily actions.

Search Data (=intent) is Tapping into the Conscious Mind


Over the course of my career, most marketing strategists I meet base their strategic plans on data they get from partners like Google. This data is predominantly collected from the search queries of consumers and drawn from tools like Google Correlate or Google Trends.

This data can provide great insights, but it’s incomplete. It’s only tapping into the conscious mind of our consumers: identifying what they had an intent for.

The missing piece is that you have to also look at the unconscious mind of consumers.

If you really want to get the full picture of what they like, want, and desire, you have to look beyond just what they are searching for, and see deep down what delights them.

Like how a person might be interested in reading fashion content but doesn’t necessarily participate in searching or social sharing around this topic.

How could you tap into that level of interest from the “conscious” data available to you?

It’s through understanding content consumption and engagement of consumers that we can tap into the “unconscious” mind of consumers and understand what they really like.

Content Consumption Data (=Interest) is Tapping Into the Unconscious Mind


At Outbrain we are fortunate to work with the world’s most prestigious content publishers and across titles like CNN, ESPN, Men’s Health, Vogue, People, GQ, TIME Magazine and InStyle in the U.S, The Guardian and The Telegraph in the UK, Le Monde and Le Figaro in France, BILD in Germany and many others.

They’ve given us the power to dive into the content consumption habits of close to 600 million readers (or potential consumers) worldwide. It has provided some unique and extremely interesting data sets which enables us to help marketers uncover the true interests of their target audience.

For example, take a look at the following graph, which uncovered that people interested in home improvement are also very likely to be interested in fashion, arts, and game consoles.

In another example, for a large CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) brand, we found that baby care related content performs best on mobile devices between 2-4 o’clock in the morning.


Probably because a lot of moms are waking up to feed their newborns and are very receptive to reading that kind of content in those moments of need.

Knowing this in advance can help you tailor your content to these moments and make it very personal for that audience.

Some ideas:

Possible Article Title – “5 Things to Do When Breastfeeding at 4:00 AM.”

Possible Article Content – “You find yourself on the rocking chair at 2:00 AM trying to sooth your baby that has a hard time sleeping because of an annoying cough…”

Thinking bigger, take a look at the incredible data visualization on holiday trends, below.

Mapped out by page views, we were able to discover hot ticket items in the Tech category that are among the most sought-after this holiday season based on content being published across our network.


Intent + Interest = Better Content Strategy


Next time you’re tasked with building a comprehensive content strategy, I suggest you look at the data sources that are available to you and make sure you tap into both intent related data as well as interest related data.

One can not live without the other and together they’ll provide you with a more holistic view for how to delight your audience, which is what content marketing is all about.

Hitting "Publish" is only The Beginning!

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Gilad de Vries

Senior Vice President of Strategy, who previously led the brands and agencies team at Outbrain. Gilad brings more than 19... Read more

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