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On the Internet, Marketers Now Know Whether You're a Dog

by Ben Straley  |  
August 20, 2013

It has been almost 20 years since The New Yorker published this iconic cartoon by Peter Steiner. Hard to believe! The joke at the time was fueled by the common conception that anyone could pretend to be anybody online and others would be none the wiser.

Recently, I was reminded of this cartoon as I was thinking about how Big Data is driving incredible leaps in marketers' understanding of their audiences right down to the demographics, psychographics, behaviors, and social connections of individual users. Twenty years ago, it might not have been possible for any of us to know that “fido1991” was, in fact, a golden retriever in Kansas City, but times have certainly changed.

So what does this potential to truly understand our audiences mean for marketers today?

[caption id="attachment_39649" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The New Yorker cartoon by Peter Steiner"][/caption]

Getting Your Audience to Love Your Ads

One of the best-performing advertising tactics is remarketing. In simple terms, remarketing refers to promoting to those targeted customers and prospects with which your brand has had recent contact. Maybe they visited your website, liked your Facebook page, and ordered a product from you. Similar to how keyword searches signal intent, remarketing uses actions like these as signals of interest in your products and brand.

What too many marketers settle for today is a form of remarketing that involves nothing more than stalking recent site visitors or “likers” around the Web with display banner ads that shout at them from the side bars and headers of their favorite sites. Sure, you’re delivering relevant ads, but chances are your ads are still being ignored or worse are turning off a lot of users in the process.

Using paid media to carpet bomb many of your brand’s most loyal and engaged customers is a clunky and counter-productive approach to developing a long-term, valuable relationship. Alternatively, using audience data to segment based on the needs and wants of your audience---and then targeting sub-segments with creative that addresses those needs and wants---suddenly transforms your ads from distracting annoyances to an engaging and share-worthy pieces of content.

How It’s Done

Data Management Platforms (DMPs) are technology services offered by a bunch of different companies that can collect audience data encompassing demographics, psychographics, and behavioral and social attributes across your digital properties. The DMPs connect that data with a number of first-party data sources, including email, marketing automation, CRM, and third-party data sources. By storing your audience data centrally and connecting it with a variety of useful data sources, you’re already adding tremendous value to your data.

From there, the real fun of audience understanding and discovery begins. For example, you can develop rich profiles of the segments that are converting on your site or the influencers who are referring their friends and followers to your company or brand to buy. You can also discover hidden audience segments you were unaware of that could be tremendous candidates for remarketing.

With the segments identified and the demographic, psychographic, behavioral, and social attributes understood, creating content (or ads) that connect with members of these segments is pretty straightforward. Use the signal of a visitor viewing your content on your website to trigger the delivery of that content to other potential product users who match the creative and messaging with a much deeper understanding of the needs and wants that originally brought her/him to you in the first place. That’s the human thing to do.

Why You Should Care

Beyond the fact that poorly targeted advertising is a particularly bad form of media pollution, advertising informed by a strong understanding of the audience on the receiving end produces better ROI. Good remarketing is possible when marketers use insights into the target audience to deliver advertising that looks and feels less like “stalky” spam and more like engaging and helpful content.

Do remarketing the right way, and your customers (and your CFO) will thank you!

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Ben Straley is vice president of social media technologies at Rio SEO.

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