The Good Old Days

Remember simpler times, when the media channels that marketers had at their disposal to reach their audience were nice and broad? Sure, consumer research could help focus in on TV or radio spots that were more likely to reach your target demographic, but it was generally accepted that media buys would involve an ‘acceptable’ level of wastage. It was inevitable. So straightforward.

These days things are different. ‘Acceptable’ wastage is no longer a thing. Customer information, and the targeting it enables, has raised expectations and accountability. Now we give our most personal data freely and consensually to communication giants and provide marketers with ways to definitively match message to target. This has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Media planning has never been easier, right? Well, maybe not…

The Power of Understanding

When ‘big data’ became a marketing buzzword a few years ago, businesses could be forgiven for getting carried away. It was all about gathering data; harvesting your customers for as much as they were prepared to disclose and creating vast databases available at our fingertips. So much information! The opportunities seemed endless.

Which is all very well, but what was the end goal? Some lost sight of their ability to use this data to form greater understandings of who their customers are. Where they come from. What their needs and desires were. To dispel myths that entire propositions were based on. Unless you’re using it to accurately increase understanding, in an actionable way, information on its own can be a bit of a red herring. Or even worse, a dangerous distraction.

And therein lies the danger of hyper-targeted media. Misunderstand who your audience is and why they buy your product, and you risk misplacing a huge portion of your media budget on assumptions. And you know what they say about assumptions…

It’s All In The Planning

Targeted digital and social media, done right, is the answer to all your problems. Combining singular insight on your audience with the online tools to reach them not only yields results, you’ll learn lot more about your audience in the process. Engagement, sales, everything you want and more. It’s a win win situation. A few simple steps to take in order to make this happen:

  1. Start with what you KNOW about your audience – not what you think you know, but what you definitively know. If you’re not sure, make use of whatever tools and external partners you need to until you are. Check, then check again. Once you’re clear on that…
  2. Think about what you’re selling and how it can resonate – whatever the story, the more you define who your audience is the more compelling and concise the messaging can be. Next up…
  3. What’s the best way to reach them – this is where there can be plenty of banana skins, and the answer may not always be clear from the beginning. Below are just a few potential approaches. Keep in mind the correct approach might be a mixture of multiple methods:
    • Broadcast – create broad audiences using fairly high-level traditional demographic attributes (age, gender, social grading), then test multiple messages with varying segments to see what resonates best. While this gives you a pretty large audience to test, the basic targeting means there is still the potential for wastage. Which means it’s worth taking the time to gather learnings from your results.
    • Custom Audiences – get more defined using the data at your disposal, you can use wider profiling and behavioural attributes (like lifestyle or interests). Audience size narrows naturally, but wastage is potentially reduced – so long as you’re sure your attributes are right (see point 1).
    • Engagement and Remarketing – now we’re getting really granular. Ensuring you only serve out messages to an audience that has engaged with your brand in some way – great! Easy pickings! Remarketing can be incredibly efficient, but there are still pitfalls. So, don’t get complacent. Keep an eye on those performance metrics and what they could be telling you.
  4. Have a licence to fail – It usually takes at least a week or two to determine which messages work best, the channels and strategy that proves the most effective and the profile of audience that respond consistently. Taking the time to get it all right is key. Once you have, you can optimise everything.

To coin a rather geeky famous phrase – ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ (and I’m not even a comic book fan!?). Google, Facebook et al have made it easier than ever for businesses of all sizes to promote to the right audience. And that’s a wonderful development, but it all still needs to be done in the right way – with your audience at its absolute heart.

The secret of success? Adding more focus to your targeting. Relevance, on all levels, is everything. Because being seen by the right audience is great, but you still have to say the right things. And when you do? Perfection.

Dan Marsh

Dan Marsh


Dan Marsh, Digital Director, bigdog