Samuel Brealey and Michael Taylor wrote an article for WARC titled Anti-Personalization: The best ad for one is the best ad for all (June 2022).

« The tools we use mean absolutely nothing if we don’t understand the market itself or how people buy and react to things… The temptation in the last ten years has been to see advertising and marketing as a feat of engineering, due to the explosion of new technology and to outsize its importance in the marketing toolset. »

« Takeaways:

  • Marketers’ enthusiasm for personalisation at scale may be needlessly adding complexity while reducing effectiveness because of a lack of attention to marketing fundamentals.
  • In general, the best ad for one audience is the best ad for all audiences.
  • Segmentation is based on the idea that you should break up your total market into groups to better tailor your ads to what each group wants. However, it is only useful if there are noticeable and distinct differences within a market that can be capitalised on.
  • The further you segment, the smaller the total market gets – inevitably reducing the potential value of the market, in terms of both its cash value and the total quantity of customers.
  • If a business has to rely on deals and promos rather than memory and positive associations then it is not a strong brand, as there is no preference beyond price.
  • ‘Always on’ advertising to the total market is beneficial to all of those who can afford to do so, using advertising that is consistent, creative and memorable. »

« Segmentation is a simple term that most people understand…. Slicing and dicing it up for the sake of it leads to superficial differences being stated as important when they are not… That’s one nail in the head for personas and micro-targeting. »

« A good example of how this should look is:

  • 1,000,000 customers make up the total market.
  • 400,000 are women within 20 miles of stores (70% of sales are in-store, 30% online).
  • 250,000 have an income level within the range of our typical customers.

This is a far simpler segmentation that gives a far greater market to address. With this information you can then perform further work to understand the media they use as well as research into category entry points to understand their behaviour.  »

« The basics of segmentation in the classical sense are often all that are needed to define the parameters in advertising and media choices, rather than an over-reliance on behavioural signals from platforms such as Facebook… There is very little evidence that behavioural data captured by platforms is a predictor of purchase intent… Facebook produced a study that showed no positive correlation between click through rates, clicks and engagement generally with the likelihood of purchase »

« It turns out many of those micro-audiences overlapped, and thus were cannibalising each other’s impressions »

Low-Hanging Fruit / Bottom of Funnel

« Facebook is incentivised to show adverts to the people who will engage with it most – or at least be least annoyed by it – so it targets people at the end of the buying cycle, who are in the market for your product. This often means people who have already been on your website and are likely to buy even without seeing an ad; one of the many attribution issues plaguing digital marketing. »

« The inherent difficulty that faces advertisers, is that to scale your ad budget you need to outbid the other advertisers in the auction. Unlike traditional advertising where if you buy more you can cut a deal, in modern auction-based ad platforms you face diminishing marginal returns where it costs more per thousand impressions (CPM) the more you need to spend.  »

« So, where do we go from here? You were turning a profit on the top 20% of customers that were both cheap to reach and highly likely to buy, but the next 40% of the audience are 10–100x more expensive.

There are cheaper people to target, but they’re far from making a purchase. We’re getting at the fundamental reason why performance marketing aka direct response – targeting that top 20% – is so effective using digital media. That is where its strength lies, predominantly. But it’s not the only way to use it, digital can be used for ‘top of funnel’ as well. »

Brand Building / Top of Funnnel

« Those cheap and ‘out of market’ people might not be ready to buy right now, but if you advertise to them anyway and build the right memory structures and associations in their brains, they’ll think of you next time they purchase. The power of brand advertising if you get it right, is that you can influence the probability of purchase. »

« Brand is a big word. It means lots of things to lots of people but it’s often best to define it as securing future cashflows – it’s a longer-term endeavour that should be measured based on improving brand health metrics.»

« Many comments have been made on the work of Les Binet and Peter Field’s The Long and Short of It by people who didn’t care to read it properly. The binary split was not to be taken literally; it is about principles applied, not rules followed.  »

« As you grow and saturate the in-market audience and those easy-to-access segments, you’ll need to expand to ‘delayed response’ channels or ‘mid-funnel’ activity. For example, moving some budget from Google Ads where someone is searching for your product, to Facebook ads where they’re the right person but haven’t started looking yet.  »

« When all of the low hanging fruit is eaten, it’s time for large scale ‘brand’ advertising. Once immediate cash flow is secured, then longer-term budget investment should follow. That’s when marketers and advertisers can have a complete funnel where media is allocated to each stage, and each segment has the right approach, whether it’s lower-funnel activity for the active, in-market segments, or consistent and long-term advertising that’s focused on the larger market that isn’t quite ready to buy just yet. »

« The lesson here is that no matter what you do, the majority of your buyers will be occasional… and therefore it is important to ensure that you are advertising and marketing not just to the easy wins but that you expand the pool of possible customers as broadly as you can afford to.  »

« Advertising is not persuasive, yet it’s a myth that holds. Advertising is a weak force, but it’s a universal cost of doing business – it’s a tax you have to pay to grow. »

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