In the era of digital marketing, many have come to believe marketing is as simple as plugging in your desired audience and watching the results flow. Our recent discussion with the Wizard of Ads, Roy H. Williams, though has us rethinking the expense and effectiveness of limiting your audience. His comments suggest that we might be in an era of over-targeting, just because we CAN target.
In Part 2 of his Brand Shorthand interview, Williams quotes research from data scientists Les Binet and Peter Field. The data suggests that targeting works about 10 percent better than not targeting. However, the cost to target can be 2x, 4x, or even 10x the cost to not target. Williams’ conclusion is, if it costs only 10 percent more to target than not target, it’s worth considering. If it costs more, it’s not worth doing.
Williams is primarily referencing marketers’ infatuation with demographic targeting. Other forms of targeting such as psychographic, geographic, or firmographic, however, can be effective. He doesn’t say to avoid considering them in your strategy, he simply warns against assuming automated success.
So now, the dilemma remains: will targeting work for my campaign? Let’s get into it.
To target or not to target
There’s a belief that once you fill out the perfect audience profile, you’re on your way to a successful campaign. While the ease and supremacy of automation allow this understanding to persist, it fails to capture the complexity and nuance behind it.
Targeting involves more than knowing what boxes to check and how to allocate funds. It relies heavily on experience and sound strategy. Some initial questions to consider:
- Is your marketing effort a B2B or B2C/D2C campaign?
- Is your product or service exclusive to a sub-set of the population?
- How do influencers (what Williams calls “inside champions”) impact the purchase decision?
- What’s the cost difference of targeted media?
- What percentage of my dollars will be wasted?
There are certain cases where targeting diminishes your potential for success. For example, using an ultra-specific approach limits the scope of your campaign, which then limits potential impressions, clicks, and conversions.
The reality is, with most campaigns, there’s some layer of targeting that adds focus to the general population. The most obvious is geographical targeting. For instance, if you’re a local business, why would you advertise to the entire United States when your business is only local or regional?
People “like” targeting?
The interesting thing about targeting is that many consumers actually want personalized content. One study reports that in 2023, 40.5 percent of consumers prefer targeted ads over those that were traditionally served at random.
Why? Because consumers know they’re bound to receive ads, and therefore, they’d at least rather see ads that interest them. In both your case as a business and theirs as a consumer, it’s a win-win.
However, as Williams suggests, many of our purchases are made because of the influence of inside champions. Think about how many times you ask someone about a restaurant recommendation or a review on the latest movie. We refer people to brands more often than we realize (“word of mouth”), which changes the notion of targeting only those who are most likely to purchase our products and services.
Two promising targeting options
While psychographic targeting has been the hottest option over the past three decades, there are two additional targeting mechanisms that show even more promise: contextual and behavioral targeting.
Contextual targeting places ads based on content viewers are consuming. In other words, as viewers consume content relevant to your brand, the assumption is that ads are more likely to deliver when it makes the most sense. There are multiple forms of contextual targeting: placement (websites, pages, apps), categories (fashion, travel, tech, food), keyword, and topics (health, beauty). They present engaging content that aligns with your brand and can become a useful tool amidst the removal of cookies. Are they more expensive? Yes, but not near as much as some of the other forms of targeting where layering is in play.
Behavioral targeting follows a consumer’s interest and behavior and is based on historical data. This is becoming more difficult to track because of browser privacy tools and overall privacy laws, but new technologies like ID2.0 show promise for behavioral targeting. Trends are even emerging that suggest its future lies in a mix between contextual and first party data. While slightly more expensive, it’s still far more affordable than other targeting options.
Both of these targeting forms yield better results because 1) they don’t have a narrow focus, and 2) they give the consumer what they want.
The answer: It depends on you
Debates will ensue about how to reach your target audience. Ultimately, targeting, by itself, works as a short-term tactic. It can create bursts of success but long-term success requires marketing focused on brand recognition. When these components of targeting and brand recognition operate simultaneously, you have a recipe for success.
To answer the dilemma of whether to target or not: it depends entirely on the circumstances. Everything — from your objectives to your budget to your brand — plays a key role as to whether you should target.
If you’re unsure of whether targeting will work for you, or not, or maybe both, contact Innis Maggiore. We’ll “target” a strategy designed to bring you the greatest marketing success