A primary benefit of online advertising is the ability to locate precise groups of consumers who are current customers or attractive prospects for your brand. Often successful targeting strategies are those that combine several classic methods of selecting a profitable audience. It might be geographic markets combined with purchase patterns for a regional retailer; or it could be a demographic segment such as male office workers and the lunchtime daypart for a fast-food chain.
Targeting strategies must support your marketing objective. There are various targeting approaches work toward achieving branding goals, prompting direct response actions, and stimulating offline sales. These targeting approaches tied to key objectives included customer acquisition (Hollow Man), new product introduction (KFC Popcorn Chicken), increasing favorability and purchase intention (Budweiser), and customer retention (Pepperidge Farm Milano).
Each targeting approach provides marketers with different consumer lenses. Demographic targeting defines customers in terms of personal characteristics (their age, gender, and income) and therefore is best for broad usage categories. Contextual targeting looks for shoppers with interest in a category or subject matter related to your brand. Behavioral targeting describes online usage patterns of potential buyers. Daypart targeting is life- and work-style oriented. Geographic targeting overlays customer location data onto products and services categories and is particularly valuable for local business objectives. Affinity targeting reaches people where they congregate around shared interests. And purchase-based targeting looks to predict your best prospects based on their online behaviors.
The most popular way to target with online advertising is to select a “good fit” content site (or microsite) that matches the subject of your product or service, such as a site on fishing and your desire to sell rods and tackle, and ones with good reputations from your consumers’ perspective. This targeting strategy has demonstrated that not only does it find interested and motivated customers, but the engagement in the content of the site, or its halo effect, enhances the engagement in the specific brand advertising.
A much newer targeting approach, unique to the internet, is based on tracking internet site behavior, via a cookie, of an attractive customer and placing your ad in a highly visited site by that customer (which may have content unrelated to the product/service category). For example, a prospective car buyer may often visit a weather site. Thus, the weather site offers an excellent targeting opportunity to reach that prospective car buyer. The engagement in the specific ad often occurs because it is the only car ad on the site and benefits from the surprise.
Success in generating growth via targeting involves linking the targeting approach to the overall marketing goal. Simply selecting an interesting targeting approach without linking to the marketing goal will lower the chances of sales success. Daypart and behavioral targeting, for example, are good for expanding brand awareness when that is your primary marketing goal. If your goal is to generate good-quality leads for the brand, contextual and demographic or category usage profile combinations often work best. And if your goal is to remarket to customers, behavioral targeting is a good candidate. We would like to stress that these are not hard-and-fast rules, but serve as examples for matching targeting strategy to marketing objectives. Marketers should find the best fit for their brands.
The key is that the more information you have on customers or potential customers, the more innovative, cost-effective, and successful your targeting strategies can be.