Right People, Right Message, Right Time: The importance of a tailored marketing strategy according to science :)

Being marketers and consumers ourselves we know awareness, consideration and conversion stages are important in a consumer journey. We not only see the results on paper, but we can easily imagine what is likely to push us to convert, and when that might be based on our previous purchasing experiences. 

While we know these stages are important, it’s easy to miss the wood from the trees when we’re looking at strategies in terms of capacity, budget limits, deadlines and pressures on KPIs. 

With this in mind, lets delve into the science of why a tailored experience is so important, to give you confidence that a tailored journey isn’t just ‘fluffy marketing’ but has real scientific backing!

How we think

In psychology it’s well-known we use a combination of systems to think, these systems being: 

System 1: A slower system that allocates attention to a task, allowing us to make logical, and effortful decisions. This system tends to operate when we solve more complex problems. 

Imagine you’re thinking of how you might structure a campaign, or are planning your next move in a game of chess. This strategic thinking requires the effort and concentration provided by system 1

System 2: This our brains shortcut mode – it helps us make quick unconscious decisions, so our brain doesn’t have to carry out effortful analyses 24/7.

Have you ever searched a brand because you’d seen the company before and you felt like it might be a good idea to browse the range. 

There might be little evidence to suggest the brand / product is the best on the market or is overly enticing / useful but you’ve searched them anyways. This is because of system 2 and the shortcuts it makes. 

System 2’s shortcuts are called Heuristics. 

In this blog we’ll look at marketing strategies and how heuristics make them effective.

The Right Time:  Reaching people before they intend to purchase

One shortcut system 2 makes is known as the ‘Familiarity Heuristic’. This shortcut relates to our tendency to rely on familiar / easily accessible information when completing an action. 

An example of this might be when we go shopping. When we scan the shelves, often we continue to reach for the same brand without trying new ones, even if the alternatives are of a similar quality and/or at a lower price. This isn’t a logical move but its one we take nonetheless.

Now let’s apply this to the digital marketing world:

Imagine you’re searching for a new pair of black leggings. In your shopping feed you see a pair on ASOS and a pair from a start-up athleisure company (the leggings look exactly the same and cost a similar amount). In the scenario you’re probably going to click and purchase from ASOS as you’ve had prior experiences with them – this might be in shopping with them, seeing their ad, or hearing about them. When looking in feed you’re probably not looking in detail about factors like quality / price and value for money – you just know ASOS so you click ASOS. 

I’m not saying brands should have the budgets and exposure ASOS does to be ‘the ASOS’ in this scenario. I’m just saying its worth identifying those potential legging searchers and preemptively showcasing your brand so you’re the brand in mind when a consumer is making that decision. This might involve reaching a select number of individuals with a general clothing interest, so when they are looking to make a purchase in the future – you are that familiar brand.

In this way awareness and consideration campaigns are so important in pushing users to purchase from you. Though you might not see the results immediately, it’s still worth pursuing those campaigns if you have the capacity & budget, and you’re interested in growing your brand longer term.

The Right People: Targeting an intentful audience

Have you ever seen an item you needed in an ad and immediately purchased it? Similarly to the previous example, you might not have made the decision based on the quality of the item or considered if there are better alternatives on the market – you’ve just seen something you need and bought it because it’s convenient. This kind of decision making relates to another shortcut in system 2. This shortcut is called “satisficing”. 

Satisficing is when you accept a satisfactory solution rather than exerting energy to find an optimal solution. 

Imagine you need a new mouse, so you type into google ‘wireless mouse’, in that moment you are unlikely to scroll to the bottom of the search engine results page to find a mouse that has a million positive reviews and is the best value for money. You’re probably going to purchase a mouse from the first few ads on the search engine results page.

In this case by targeting people with that intent you’re able to capture them regardless of your product / competitors/ previous advertising activity, and this is why search can be such a powerful tool.

Alternatively going back to the example given previously, you can target people likely to have intent, by pre-emptively showcasing your brand to those individuals with a clothes interest, so when they do have that intent to purchase – you are the brand in mind, and/ or the brand with a convenient solution.

Targeting the right people is so important in paid social & search, and you can do this in a variety of ways 

  • Search: Targeting keywords people are actively searching
  • Display: Targeting placements / audiences in line with your target audience
  • YouTube: Targeting placements / searches/ audiences in line with your target audience
  • Pmax: Target search themes / keyword audiences / people in-market & interested in related topics
  • Social: targeting specific interests / audiences 

The Right Message 

As marketers we know Ads are important, they help us stand out from the crowd and can be that final push to a convince a consumer to pick us. 

We know Ads that work well include those that 

  1. Are Specific to the needs/ wants of users
  2. Evoke emotion
  3. Showcase happy customers

(These are just some of many features that define a persuasive ad)

But why do these features work so well? 

  1. We discussed satisficing earlier in terms of capturing the right audience. Capturing a relevant audience is only one piece of the puzzle, we must also showcase that our product/service is a convenient solution through our copy and creative. This is why buzz words around ‘quick & easy’ are so widely used and are so effective.
  1. Often, we make decisions based on emotions, moods & ‘gut feelings’ rather than logic, this ‘shortcut is known as ‘the affect heuristic’ and its why certain ads work so well.
  2. Imagine you’re scrolling through social media – you see an ad with the message ‘Have you had a flight disruption or cancellation, check if you’re owed compensation now”. The ad does well to evoke the feeling your ‘owed’ which can act as a motivator in clicking through to convert. 
  1. I’m sure we’ve all seen those ads that showcase the millions of happy customers the brand has and its 10,000-star reviews on Trustpilot. While these ads aren’t new to, they continually work well in drawing customers in. This can be explained by another shortcut called the ‘social proof’ heuristic. This refers to our tendency to use social verification as a confirmation of something rather than investigating ourselves and is heavily supported in psychological literature.

In conclusion, while much of the strategy we employ within paid social & PPC seems common sensical and like ‘fluffy marketing’ – the reasons behind such practices and their efficacy can be explained by a variety of established heuristics.

Thank you for reading! Hopefully you’ve found the blog interesting

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions 

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