Goodbye demographic targeting, hello custom audience targeting

Libby Margo in Growth hacking on 11th of Jun 2019
Custom audience marketing

Custom audience marketing

Demographic targeting involves segmenting a targeted audience into more specific groups, such as gender, age, location, and so on. The use of demographic targeting has helped marketers target the right audience, thus reducing unnecessary ad impressions and saving precious dollars off their marketing budgets.

Today, we know that a typical customer journey is far more complicated than before, thanks to the combination of cross-channel and multi-platform usage. In fact, Insights from Google tell us that more than 80% of users shift between devices. Furthermore, users’ viewing habits are also changing. Rather than sticking to one platform to watch something (say, a TV), users are more likely to switch from their cell phones to laptops — and maybe to their TV. And they might be watching their favorite HBO series on TV but feasting their eyes on a 2-minute skit on their phone at the same time.

Just as our customers’ purchasing habits have changed, so too have their viewing habits. What this suggests is that brands also need to adapt their practices. And one way they can do so is to move from demographic targeting to custom audience targeting.

What is custom audience marketing?

Demographic targeting encompasses broad age and gender-focused advertising. This practice is generally seen as generic because each target audience has no “face,” for example, “30-year old female.”

On the other hand, custom audience targeting focuses on real people with real interests and passions. In other words, we’re putting a real face to the 30-year old female above. We can then segment them accordingly: the fashionista, the gourmand, the bibliophile, the gym junkie, and so on. Custom audience marketing allows you to reach customers based on who they are, their interests and habits, what they’re actively researching, or how they’ve interacted with your brand.

More specifically, custom audience targeting can boost your campaign’s performance by reaching people browsing websites, using apps, or watching videos. And by using audience targeting, brands can better:

  • Increase awareness
  • Influence decision-making
  • Personalize marketing messages

We will discuss the stages in detail, as well as the right channels for each step.

Increase awareness with custom audiences

This step involves focusing on your customers’ interests to increase brand awareness. To be successful, you must understand what your target market is genuinely passionate about (intent). For example, does your audience comprise people who go to the gym every day, or are they always on the look-out for the next hottest restaurant in town? Once you understand this, you can then start to customize your campaigns.

According to Think with Google, these targeting formats are ideal for increasing awareness:

  • Masthead ads (digital billboard ads placed on YouTube’s homepage temporarily)
  • Out-stream video display ads (based on CPM)
  • Google Search Ads — try AB split testing your Ads to see which ones work best for your audiences, using the journey below- and of course, Autopilot:

Influence decision-making

The second stage involves focusing on your customer’s intent to influence their consideration. Here, we turn our attention to in-market audiences — these are the customers who are already actively browsing, researching, or comparing products across the Google Display Network (GDN), partner sites, and YouTube.

For example, if we know that our gourmand customer is interested in attending a food and wine festival in Portland, we can assist them by nudging them towards accommodation options in the area or flights from their nearest cities. In this decision-making stage, effective targeting formats may include:

  • Responsive display ads (asset-based ads that automatically adjust to fit available ad spaces)
  • Gmail ads
  • TrueView Discovery ads on YouTube

Personalize marketing messages

In this final stage, marketers are now in a better position to respond to users who have engaged with their band. Examples of engagement include a user who has watched your pasta making tutorial on YouTube or clicked through multiple pricing pages on your gym wear e-commerce site. Remarketing tactics are prevalent in this stage and may include hyper-targeted formats such as the following:

  • Dynamic responsive display ads that pop-up on sites featuring similar products that users have looked at previously
  • TrueView for Action ads, featuring strong CTAs
  • Bumpers for Action ads (6-second ads with CTAs)

Advanced targeting strategies are the way to go

As marketers, we must look for opportunities to get as granular as possible with our targeting efforts. And by using targeting formats that acknowledge today’s multi-faceted customer journeys and hone into our customers’ personalities and ever-changing habits, we’ll be able to better engage with them across all stages of the buying process.

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