Are Brands Missing Key Audiences with Data-Driven Targeting?

Data-driven targeting is an extremely effective way to achieve marketing objectives. However, is it causing marketers to limit their reach, to a point where they're losing out on hitting their KPIs? Lisa Menaldo (pictured below), managing director UK, Sublime Skinz, tells ExchangeWire that brands need to start broadening their data horizons on the quest to finding new audiences.

It’s easy to get comfortable with a certain way of doing things. Once you hit upon a formula that produces the right results, it can be tempting to stop testing alternatives and become completely dependent on one, fixed process. Why is this relevant to digital marketing? Because the industry’s current reliance on data-driven targeting is a perfect example of tunnel vision.

There is no denying that data-driven targeting works. Last year, Instagram was so enthused by the success of targeted ads on its site — such as a 28 point increase in ad recall for Turkish Airlines — it launched a new global range of targeting options. Indeed, the data-driven approach can be good for everyone. It enables brands to build relevant and useful ads that are delivered to exactly the right users, while consumers themselves receive messages that are genuinely tailored to their interests.

But for all its accuracy, data-driven targeting has its limits. The insights it produces help marketers identify and target specific consumers whose online activities indicate they are likely to be interested in a particular product. So, what about other potential prospects who would be a perfect for the brand, but have not discovered it yet? By relying too heavily on an approach that provides extreme precision, brands are inevitably narrowing their own options and missing out on key potential audiences.

The familiarity of data-driven habits

Lisa Menaldo Sublime SkinzBasing campaigns on a solid foundation of data has become a way of life in modern marketing, and it’s not hard to see why — according to a recent study by Turn and Forbes, marketers using data-driven strategies are six times more likely to report a higher profit and three times more likely to increase their revenue. With the capacity to make such a large impact on ROI, it’s not surprising that only 24% of marketers felt they would be able to achieve similar results with a data-lite approach.

Yet marketing campaigns that treat engagement as purely a science are missing a crucial element — the power to deliver the unexpected. While the personalisation that data-targeting affords is valued by consumers, they want more from marketing messages than just products that match their existing needs. Earlier this year, AOL research found that 48% of consumers expect brands to know them and help them discover new products and services. Consumers want the science that makes ads relevant, but they also want brand experiences to offer them something new.

By targeting campaigns only to a prescribed set of interests linked to past purchases, or present online browsing habits, marketers are limiting the scope of their success. For example, a sports brand may target consumers who frequently visit its site with ads for running shoes, yet this restricts its reach to a select pool of users, instead of introducing its products to a new group of users and expanding its customer base.

Embracing the bigger advertising picture

So, the question is: how can marketers break the mould to deliver new and valuable experiences? The answer is to take a more holistic, multidimensional approach that looks beyond the next interaction and considers the entire journey. And, believe it or not, data is vital to achieving this — but it must be used in a very different way.

Marketers need to recognise that any single data point provides a snapshot of a person, which means targeting based on this view will be flat, incomplete, and uninspiring. To build campaigns that truly resonate, marketers must gather a range of insights into activities and interests across every channel — both online and offline — to build a complete, fully-rounded picture of individual consumers.

Instead of tailoring messages according to what they think is next on the shopping list, using one-dimensional cookie data, marketers will be able to create personalised stories that anticipate the products and services individuals might want or aspire to in the future. This will enable marketers to not only fire consumers’ imaginations, but also provide an unexpected and useful experience that earns lasting loyalty.

Facebook, for example, is already pioneering this method by allowing advertisers to target consumers based on the content they like and share within the platform, and from external publisher websites. This option takes into account the kaleidoscopic variation of individual interest and enables marketers to take their data-driven strategy further than simply targeting past purchases with uniform messages.

Where Facebook leads, more will inevitably follow; and for the marketers who want to get ahead of the curve, now the time to embrace a braver style of campaign. By moving away from the formulaic and narrow sphere of bite-sized data targeting and using multiple insights to understand — and engage —individuals, they can shake off the tunnel vision that is restricting their potential. The well-trodden path may be comfortable, but it is not the route to new experiences, or audiences.