This is another in an ongoing series on Advertising Personalization. Part I, The Evolution of Advertising Personalization: A 100+ year quest to create advertising that people actually like, can be found here. Part II: The Advertising Personalization Classification System is here.
The structures and strategies we call marketing began to develop at an accelerated rate in the early 20th century.
The earliest marketing priority was to move goods fast and in bulk. This began to change in the early part of the century, in the era that is now known as the Sales Era. At its height in the 1920s, marketing was focused on the pitch/play/spiel. It was led by a generation of men whose lone reason for being, so it seemed, was to confront customers in their homes, then “butter them up” until the individual opened their wallet. More concerned with profit than anything else, the Sales Era can be characterized as one with little regard for the customer.
In the 1950s the buying public had tired of the pushy salesman. Companies recognized this profound attitude shift and realigned themselves to concentrate on market research. Advertisers utilized this research to craft campaigns that spoke to the broadest audience in terms all of them would understand.
This gave way to the Relationship Marketing Era of the 1990s when advertisers updated some of the same approaches practiced in the 1920s in order to form a relationship with their customers. Not long after relationship marketing, the strategy of putting the consumer at the center of the campaigns became possible through the rise of social media.
Today, we’re in the still-developing stages of the Digital Marketing Era. Technology and the internet have created new, more efficient conduits between a company and the consumer. What’s most striking about the era of digital marketing is its speed, targeting ability, and relatively low cost, meaning any company, large or small, can create, elaborate, personalized campaigns at scale.
Depending who you ask, these general phases have been invasive, smarmy, or downright manipulative and deceitful (generally the consumer’s POV). Or, they’ve been positive, fair, and uplifting (this is usually the marketer’s view).
While marketing has developed and become more technologically advanced, these dueling perceptions, that marketing is a force for evil or a force for good, have become more entrenched. Only 4% of Americans think that the marketing industry behaves with integrity — putting marketers below Congress. Contrast this with the perception held by 83% of marketers surveyed that the traditional ads they’re in the business of creating are the most effective means of influencing buying decisions. As is evident, there is a serious disconnect.
Clearly, this mistrust is lousy for marketers and worse for those businesses that have quality goods and services they want to sell (and that people need). And, as a marketer trapped in a CEO’s body, it’s disappointing to hear that so few people trust me and my fellow marketers. Especially knowing that the content we create for our audience is produced with the intention of making them better at their jobs and furthering their business goals.
“Too Many Walls, Not Enough Bridges.” — Sir Isaac Newton
For those of us in the marketing game, bridging this trust gap is vital. And, like it or not, for those who are not, marketers are an essential part of the commerce equation for no other reason than they are the best, and sometimes only, line of communication between a good idea, a quality product or service, the individual who can benefit from entering into this these transactional relationships, namely: you.
Along with better self-policing as a way to build trust, marketers can apply the Advertising Classification System. This is a system I put together to apply to my own business, Instapage, but as it took shape it became clear that the system spoke directly to the needs of the buying public as well.
The newly created Advertising Personalization Classification System is advantageous to the consumer for a number of reasons. Foremost, the system arms the consumer with the ability to quickly apprehend what kinds of messages are coming their way and just as quickly discern whether or not the message is worthy of their attention. If the user decides that it is, they can then express to a brand their willingness to allow for a clear channel of communication between that brand and what they want.
My new system is fed or informed by Advertising Personalization; the act of using insights into who a customer might be to increase the relevancy of an ad. These insights can be as simple as human wants/needs, geolocation, and basic demographic information, to more specific insights such as a niche interest, buying intent, and even behavioral patterns as specific as your political sympathies or interest level in the local sports teams.
In this article, and others to follow, I’m going to take a closer look at each level of my Advertising Personalization Classification System and assess how each level works. When properly applied, the insights gained from these discussions can applied by consumers as a way to either regain their trust in marketing or, at least, help them better understand how the ads they’re seeing are trying to get them to take action.
Level 0 — Need or Want Personalization
Think of Level 0 as a baseline.
At this level advertising is impersonal and is sometimes referred to as, “Spray and pray,” meaning the business places ads anywhere and everywhere, hoping that people will notice. Any targeting, such as it is, speaks to the Need/Want Personalization level. You, the individual are not being addressed in any specific way. For the consumer this kind of advertising is generally “off your radar,” or only something you might engage with under very specific circumstances, e.g. you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner and you’re looking for a beer pairing.
Today, there are many businesses, products, and services that advertise or promote themselves at this level.
Level 1 — Regional Personalization
This level of location specific advertising adds a layer of complexity to the targeting and personalization. It works by placing ads of any media within a specific geographic location to influence purchase decisions in one locality. At this level it is the marketer’s knowledge of place that determines the level of personalization and the type of targeting that will take place. Level 1 Regional Advertising Personalization differs greatly from the thoroughly modern location-based advertising that relies on a consumer’s smartphone to place them and message them directly in the form of an SMS alert or text. Level 1 Regional Advertising Personalization is analog when compared to location-based advertising which is truly digital.
Level 1 ads speak a region’s needs, and more or less by default, your needs, too. If you live in the mountains, businesses and marketers are going to create ads for coats, gloves, hats, skis, boots, etc. Coastal residents are less likely to see promotions for these types of products.
Example of Regional Personalization
For consumers, regional advertising personalization can moderately enhance their interaction with a business. Overall, though, given this level’s relatively unsophisticated targeting, it is better at making you aware of a local brand, product or service than it is at actually getting you to make a purchase
There are exceptions that demonstrate the power of well-executed regional advertising personalization; the most notable being the well-placed billboard. Think of a time you were on a long drive and were ready to stop. You’re remote enough that cell service is poor or nonexistent. You see this:
You’re only 287 miles away from a luxurious room!
While not the most stylish billboard it is the quintessence of regional advertising personalization and, if you’re that tired and can hold out, has planted the idea in your head that there is accommodation down the road.
For the marketer the upsides of regional advertising personalization are mainly monetary. Buying time on local radio and/or TV, or placing ads in regional papers is a lot less expensive. Also, a marketer can tailor their messages to a location, going beyond the basics of location, down to the granularity of local idiom, traditions, slang, reference to local institutions, etc. The biggest advantage comes in ROI. For marketers who effectively target customers in a region, the cost of acquiring that new customer shrinks.
Regional advertising personalization cons are inherent. In some instances, a region’s target audience may not be large enough to warrant the ad expenditure. And, even if you effectively identify your ideal customer in a region, that customer may not be open to the idea of switching to a new product based on local loyalties. To make waves in a region may mean you’ll have to saturate the local market with repeated marketing messages so you can capture market share. This can get as costly as a national campaign.
Level 1 Regional Advertising Personalization By The Numbers
A few stats on one of the most prevalent Level 1 medium: Billboards
- There are over 2 million billboards on U.S. federal aid roads, growing by 5,00 to 15,000 annually — Congressional Research Service
- Billboard Industry revenue $6.7 billion — Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
- Billboards account for approximately 2.5% of total advertising spending in the U.S. — Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
- 0.2% of adults said outdoor advertising was the most influential ad medium in their purchase decisions. — Marketing Charts
Doing Regional Advertising Personalization Digitally (For Marketers Only)
Regional advertising personalization done online makes sense for multi-location businesses, not so much for those with businesses that serve a limited territory.
Google, Yahoo, and Bing have the capability to show your ads to visitors located in nearby metro areas or states; they can even target ads within a specific number of square miles around a particular location. This level of targeting allows you to engage your customers with directed search engine marketing campaigns without having to pay for larger advertising campaigns.
Some of the most common examples of regional advertising approaches are:
General Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising. SEM, as utilized within Level 1, is set up to target only local or regional customers.
Ads in Google Maps and Yahoo Local present a perfect opportunity for targeted sponsored search. Many of the local search engines allow a free business listing for each location, and should be leveraged as part of a larger business directory listing initiative.
Local business directories
Sites like Yelp, FourSquare, TripAdvisor, CitySearch, etc. are tightly geo-focused and most metro areas have portals that deliver local ad listings.
Local Classified Advertising sites
Craigslist, eBay Classifieds offer free listings and intended solely for displaying products and services to a local market. The only investment is in the time it takes to post and maintain listings.
Localized Search Engine Optimization (L-SEO)
A practice that is becoming more popular and often forms a critical set of tactics for local businesses to organically rank higher in the major search engines.
Social Media Marketing
Social media produces great returns, especially for brands who can host local events and offer local coupons to build loyalty and repeat business as ways to expand their customer base. Facebook is an especially easy-to-use, and obviously incredibly effective, platform when it comes to enabling marketers to target locally.
Be It Ever so Humble, There’s No Place Like Home
Level 1 Regional advertising personalization, despite its regional specificity and occasional successes, has many limitations. Mainly, this level of outreach struggles to get your attention against nearly insurmountable odds. Even if you see a Level 1 ad there’s a high chance you will have no need or interest in what is on offer. If you do, you still may not feel any compunction to act due to its inability to address your need or desire and the to the disconnect between you and a way to take action.
In articles to come we will move up through every level the Advertising Classification System. A powerful system designed to provide consumers, and marketers, an oculus through which they can see how to best focus their attention and on which of the countless messages that make demands on their time, emotion, and money, are relevant to them. Armed with this knowledge, the consumer will be able to make better choices, save money, and take control of how they’re being marketed to. Brands will be able to offer customers experiences that are tailored to their specific needs, reduce their cost of customer acquisition, and be less obtrusive in the lives of their loyal customers.
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