One of the reasons we love online advertising is its front-end quantifiability. Nearly all the important metrics you need are readily available: Click-through rates (CTR), costs per click (CPCs), and conversions, summed up in neat little charts for your analytical digestion.
But it can be easy to forget that all of these data points represent real actions taken by real people. Online advertising doesn’t happen in a vacuum—your ads are being evaluated by human beings who all have their distinct personalities and desires. And today, recognizing this is more important than ever.
Earlier this year, Chris Golec, CEO of B2B marketing firm Demandbase told CMO.com, “The ability to target and personalize ads can really change the game for both marketing and sales…Based on what we saw in 2013, this will be the year when B2B marketers can move the needle with online advertising.” But how personal are your ads in reality?
Advertisers need to be extra vigilant in segmenting audiences and personalizing their ads, all with the understanding that their customers aren’t just pixels on a screen—they’re people. The brands that hold this philosophy will be better able to develop high quality relationships with their customers while producing quantifiable results.
Dig into Demographics
A recent study conducted by Scout Research found that the more engaged a user is with online content, the better they recall the brand’s name and the more likely they are to purchase their products.
If you’ve been running display or pay per click ads for a while, you might think you have a solid understanding of your customer base’s demographics. But it can be easy to take these groups and their characteristics for granted, falling short when it comes to meaningful engagement. Digging a bit deeper into your core audiences can help you uncover subgroups, interests, and motivations you might have been neglecting.
For instance, Fairmont Hotels did this recently with its “Everyone’s an Original Personality” contest. By running a “What Type of Traveler Are You?” quiz campaign (and offering up various luxury gift prizes to the randomly chosen winners), the company was able to identify consumer interests and personalities that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. Aside from gaining some promotional value through the sweepstakes, Fairmont was able to learn about and segment their customer base for better, more relevant forms of engagement down the road.
Make Them Feel
Once you’ve identified some of the core (and secondary) characteristics of your audience, it’s time to let them know that yes, you do care about them and they’re not just a number! And one of the most reliable ways to engage your audience on this personal level is through emotion. Connecting with a user through a display ad is no easy task, but by thinking critically about what our products do for our customers, we can heighten those ideas to deliver a poignant message.
Last year the soap brand Dove, after completing a study that found that only 2 percent of women find themselves beautiful, ran a series of video ads entitled “Real Beauty Sketches.” In this campaign, an FBI sketch artist drew women based on her own descriptions, then drew the same women based on other peoples’ descriptions. What they discovered was both eye-opening and inspirational: While so many women pictures themselves in a lesser light than reality, complete strangers saw them in an honestly beautiful way. Although the campaign didn’t mention Dove’s products at all, the brand was able to connect to its audience on an emotional level by tying their advertising to the brand’s commitment to fostering self-esteem in women. And the numbers didn’t lie! Within a month of launch, the video had been viewed more than 114 million times in over 110 countries, and had been transcribed into 25 languages.
There’s a Time and Place
While your primary advertising goal may be to reach that elusive ROI, remember that people, by nature, are social creatures on the internet. A big part of treating your customers like the people they are is being mindful that there’s a time and a place for everything. So you should always consider how your messages impact the user’s online experience and how that represents your brand.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and ask, “Would I be receptive to this form of messaging right here, right now?” On social media, for instance, only 4 percent of Facebook users prefer to see sales messages, and companies like Priceline have admitted that social ads haven’t panned out for ROI. How we engage with brands and messages is different via email, content sites, mobile apps, social media, and even watching television shows online. So it’s crucial to tailor your communications to the what, where, and how that will be most relevant to the user.
While consideration and empathy are core components of an online marketing strategy, it’s the basic prospect of “getting to know your audience” that so many marketers and specifically online advertisers forget. Dig deep into your customer data; survey the field; segment users wherever relevant; find the emotional angle that resonates; alter your language for the subject and audience; and overall, look for the stories in your campaign results. Basic analytics and ROI analyses can help you begin to optimize campaigns, but the real challenge and rewards come with proving that your brand sees customers as human beings, not just dollar signs.
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