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Marketing Mythbusters

Acxiom Last Updated June 12th, 2020
Marketing Mythbusters

Now that 2016 is here, and our election season is about to jump into high gear, it’s time for all of us to awaken our inner skeptics. Much of what we are going to hear over the next few months should be analyzed and fact-checked, and preferably through our own research and personal insight rather than through the media outlets (entertaining as that will surely be). It’s therefore more important for us to get into the habit of attacking myths and uncovering actual facts now. But instead of jumping straight into an analysis of political storytelling, let’s start with some myths that live a little closer to home – those within our own industry.

So many marketing technology advancements have been made in the last few years, that the truth of what’s possible and what’s not possible has become indistinguishable. Some myths have even been historically true but are no longer strictly valid. Let’s start with a few around audience segmentation.

Myth #1: The best quality audience I can target is one made up of the right mix of demographic and behavioral traits for my brand.

When a brand or digital marketer looks at a media plan, they are most often reviewing demographic and/or behavioral traits for individuals who may be willing to engage with their brand and buy their product. Audience qualifications are usually informed by market research or learnings from past campaigns, e.g., high net worth individuals ages 35-45 in certain zip codes, that last bought a car seven years ago might just consider your new luxury crossover. This approach makes sense, and post-campaign testing can validate or refine results. But is it truly the best quality audience you can start with?

To really improve the quality of your audience, to target individuals who have the absolute highest propensity to buy, there’s an easier and more effective solution – use your own data to more accurately recognize and reactivate your known customers. By combining known individual data from a client CRM system with known identifiers such as cookies or publisher IDs, you can target actual individuals, not hypothetical ones based on a combination of data sets from disparate sources.

Performance correlations identified through cookies on a page or search histories are theories based on tracked behavioral data. But with the right consumer data, you don’t have to make assumptive correlations or act on what amounts to an informed guess – you can absolutely target the right person by reactivating those people who have already bought your products or services and are likely to buy them again.

And by using highly accurate 1st party data as the foundation for targeting, you also gain the ability to review sales data on the back end, even linking online behavior to offline purchases. So why would you only want to measure online behavior through activity tags – which may or may not have any real relevancy to actual transactions – when you could validate campaigns with real sales data? Why wouldn’t you start here?

Myth #2: To acquire net new customers, I need to widen my net to include as many potential customers as possible. 

Say you’re at a start-up, or are launching a new product that will really open up a new market. You might not have an existing population stored in your CRM system – but that’s no reason to burn through your marketing budget. There are some specific ways you can narrow down a potential audience.

For example, consider building a propensity model to design an audience for cross-channel targeting (keeping in mind that performance ratios will be different than campaigns to a known population). Or work with a third-party data partner to acquire sales data by using pre-existing populations. You can even track these segment IDs against all transactions to demonstrate effectiveness, and the best part is you can do it all with your own analytics platform, if you already have one in place.

Or better yet, make the investment to run a limited, non-targeted segmentation campaign just to get learnings on targets before developing larger campaigns based on the results.

Myth #3: Senior marketing execs need reach numbers to justify their media investments. 

It’s true that historically marketers have needed to justify media spend by the number of people in their target audience they have reached. But it’s also true that historically this targeting hasn’t truly been held accountable. Does CPR have true value? Are you really influencing offline sales? Has your stock price improved?

Marketing leaders are keenly aware that most of their media is not directly driving sales or might be reaching people who are already likely to purchase anyway. Even if they have a great market share percentage, only a fraction of the population can really be considering a purchase and are likely to be pushed to sale. Combine current market share, and the share of people who are truly persuadable, and it’s a much smaller population than they may be used to seeing on their campaign plans.

We are entering an era where the use of mass media is becoming more defined – where actual sales activation will be more targeted. This may sound familiar, because it is. Not everyone gets a direct mail piece anymore. We went from putting a sales flyer in every regional paper to targeting specific consumers at home. Once marketers begin to understand wastage, the focus on reach numbers may finally begin to fade away. Marketers will start to focus more on measuring value delivered to a smaller, more targeted subset.

So let’s make our own prediction about what’s real. Marketing leaders expecting greater accountability from campaign performance will shift their metrics from impressions and CTR to incremental measurement. Brands will start to use their 1st party data to run campaigns en masse and overall reach numbers go down in favor of quality scoring. And they will demand the same validation they have come to expect from other targeted media.

So while some have forecasted that next gen marketing technologies such as eye-tracking and heat maps that can tell you what individuals are really “in the mood” to buy, why not do what’s possible today rather than wait to see what may be possible tomorrow? And let’s all get into the habit of checking our facts before preserving myths that have become, and should remain, as fiction.