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Hacking Into User Intent & Serving Ads That Trigger

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Online paid ads (and the marketers behind them) have in the past tried targeting in-market consumers; those further down the consideration funnel, driven in part by the success of Facebook ads. But in today’s world, ad platforms are much better at motivating passive consumers: the larger audiences that don’t yet know they want to buy a product or service

Paid social ads are tapping into passive consumers as much as those ready to buy. Those that are not being targeted by their buying intent, but their buying persona. Demographics, interests and other signals.

The challenge right now is this: how do you maximise in-market consumers (paid search’s bread and butter for example) vs passive consumers (those that may or may not be looking to buy but fit your target demographic)?

This isn’t a new challenge, since TV and radio were effectively unaware of the consumer state and a lot more broad brush in their approach. However digital has changed that dramatically.

How far up the purchase funnel can we go to capture the sale as early and profitably as possible? What does the right blend look like across the purchase journey?

Finding the right paid marketing mix

I’m focusing on paid marketing as a point of interest as ad platforms are the fastest route to growth. Looking at the basics of how ad platforms operate, you’re given a choice of targeting options using some kind of creative format, with an amount you’re prepared to bid against a particular action.

That’s as simple as I can distill any form of paid advertising down to. Plus, eventually making more money than you’re spending at some point is nice too 🙂

Here’s an example using Google Ads:

  • Targeting: includes keyword, location, device, age etc

  • Creative format: includes text, text and image, image (moving into Google Display Network territory), video (moving into YouTube video ad territory).

  • Bidding: generally a fixed amount with ‘bid modifiers’ to increase or decrease bidding under certain conditions plus reach (GDN, YouTube).

Here are some of the Facebook ads options:

  • Targeting: includes age, gender, location, interests, device etc.

  • Creative format: includes static image, multiple images, and video.

  • Bidding: a fixed amount (manual bid) or an amount which Facebook decides is optimal against your ‘strategy’ such as conversions, downloads or leads or an amount based on reach and frequency not dissimilar to TV targeting.

Here’s how Pinterest ads stack up:

  • Targeting: includes gender, location, language, keywords (terms) and device.

  • Creative format: includes static images with text and and video.

  • Bidding: fixed amounts.

Not so dissimilar are they? Of course there are quite a few differences. For example the audience targeting options available in Facebook are by far much more advanced than Google Adwords or Pinterest, in particular because of the amount of data Facebook users willingly give up.

Google Adwords thrives on user-intent; that is, a search for the product you’re interested in or ready to buy. Their non-search products have fantastic reach for brand campaigns (e.g. YouTube ads and the Google Display Network) but generally don’t generate the positive returns seen via paid search.

Pinterest continues developing its targeting options and seem to be attempting to find a happy medium between active in-market consumers (via wishlist type pins and implied intent) and passive consumers (by growing their audience level targeting). Kind of a merge of Adwords and Facebook ads.

Other ad platforms like Twitter and Reddit are creating positive returns for businesses and yet others are still to take full revenue advantage of their user base like Snap and TikTok.

Their goals are similar, to grab marketing dollars and push ads to consumers before they decide to buy whilst keeping those consumers engaged on those platforms.

It’s a difficult blend for sites like Pinterest and Facebook which are destinations in their own right. Google’s goal in contrast is to get you to your destination as fast as possible, off of Google.

This creates a fine balance for social sites to monetise whilst retaining engagement. This is what a marketer needs to tap into, creating consumer value first and generating sales as the benefit.

Creating Trigger Content

As the competition for consumer spend increasingly seeks out new and first mover advantage channels, the need for us as marketers to capture user attention before consumers even know they want to buy an item becomes a growing battlefield.

Have you considered personalised neuro targeted ads? Sound crazy?

What could wearable devices (VR, AR) bring to marketers when the Google Glass and Oculus Rifts of today become as normal and mainstream as mobile devices in the next few decades.

I was inspired years ago by a Martin Lindstrom talk around neuro-marketing and the triggers marketers can use to influence buying decisions.

He talked about how Mini changed the front grill of the Mini Cooper in the US to reflect the softer look their female demographic found more visually appealing. And how Coca Cola, used reinforced glass around the logo on their glass bottles to ensure that if the bottle shattered, their logo would remain visible.

Triggers are everything in marketing.

Triggers are what creates action and each ad platform, whilst slightly different in how you can use those triggers, allows you to build ad campaigns to push people down the funnel with the right ad at the right time.,

Uncovering your brand appeal to consumers is the way forward to developing pre-consideration marketing in the emerging social ad platforms.

The future is now. React, learn and adapt or be left behind.


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