Suppression Explained: How Off-Target Messages Erode ROAS and Customer Goodwill

April 23, 2019

Sometimes, less is more — especially in digital marketing. Ask Marc Pritchard.

Procter & Gamble’s CMO made international headlines in 2017 when he slashed $200 million from the CPG goliath’s digital ad budget, returning to the spotlight when the gambit boosted reach by 10 percent.

“We were annoying the hell out of people,” Pritchard admitted, explaining that while P&G researchers determined the company only needed to reach the average consumer three times per month, many of its customers received anywhere from 10 to 20 ads during that span. So P&G leveraged its data and analytics insights to begin courting smaller niche audiences, like new mothers or first-time home buyers. “We have now reached an inflection point where we can precision-target audiences,” Pritchard said.

The pain inflicted by ad spend mismanagement impacts companies of all shapes and sizes, of course, not just multinational corporations like P&G: Ineffective channels and strategies cost brands an average of 26 percent of marketing budgets each year. The option of targeting smaller, more sharply defined audiences isn’t exclusive to organizations of P&G’s scope and reach, either. But far too few brands have learned from P&G’s mistakes or taken cues from its course correction. Armed with out-of-date and incomplete deterministic data, marketers continue flooding consumers with irrelevant messages — a costly comedy of errors rooted in activating inaccurately categorized customer profiles, customers who’ve already committed behaviors that disqualify them from a given campaign, and/or customers who’ve already converted.

That’s why the Signal Identity Network gathers only deterministic, authenticated data and resolves each behavior and trait back to customer profiles, powering the laser accuracy essential to identifying and suppressing media to individual audience members who don’t qualify for a specific campaign or previously converted.

By integrating with Signal, a brand is able to accurately identify existing customers within a given audience, suppress those who don’t fit the campaign criteria or convert in-flight, and pocket the cost savings — resources it can reallocate to other, more rewarding endeavors, while also sparing those customers unwanted messages (a.k.a. not “annoying the hell out of people,” in Pritchard’s parlance).

Consider a campaign to drive sales of an automaker’s latest models. Studies indicate that the average consumer keeps a new car about 71 months, meaning the automaker can kick off the campaign by suppressing audiences who’ve purchased one of its vehicles within the last six years or so. From there, the moment a customer included in the campaign converts — activity the automaker learns instantly via Signal’s continuous, real-time customer data onboarding solution — she too will be excluded from additional ads as the campaign motors on.

Suppressing ads touting your newest sports utility vehicle to a customer who just purchased that same SUV doesn’t merely improve customer engagement and ROAS. It also yields more accurate and insightful performance marketing metrics. Consider the alternative: Each time your campaign targets a consumer who’s already converted, you’re artificially deflating critical KPIs like customer acquisition cost.

Make no mistake: Your customers want to hear from you, and they want to engage on a more personal basis. But no campaign, no matter how compelling or creative, is meaningful to every consumer. As P&G proves, marketing is a matter of addition by subtraction, so don’t be the brand notorious for a constant barrage of ads out of sync with individual customer behaviors and qualifications — be the brand that delivers a curated, data-driven selection of hyper-accurate, hyper-relevant ads that never miss the bullseye.

Lara Compton

Lara was formerly Vice President of Marketing at Signal.

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