In the not-so-distant past, microtargeted ads were a marketing must. You could zero in on ever-smaller niche groups based on political leanings, perceived health conditions, dating preferences, credit scores, and more. Launching a sensitive-skin shampoo? Target ads to suburban women with dry scalps with a few quick clicks.
Fast forward to today, and the marketing landscape has undergone a seismic shift. Due to increasing privacy and legal risks, platforms have drastically restricted segmentation capabilities — and the era of slicing and dicing audiences based on granular details has ended.
Still, marketers can continue targeting key audiences that align closely with product offerings. We just need to innovate our tactics while following the tried-and-true principles of the scientific method.
1. Define a question – to get at the why
To start, marketers need to start asking better questions. Instead of asking who our target audience is, we need to figure out why our audience makes certain choices. This means navigating the intricate landscape of consumer psychology. No more playing with the mundane demographics alone: Now, success hinges on crafting messages that resonate on a soul-stirring level.
Marketing a sensitive-skin shampoo, for example, is no longer a predictable game of targeting women with health issues. We must unearth the motivations that guide people’s choices by asking, for example, what emotions, desires, or concerns drive this kind of shampoo purchasing?
2. Form a hypothesis – to decode the motivations
By asking better questions, we have the potential to come up with more intriguing hypotheses. We might conjecture, for example, that choosing a sensitive-skin shampoo may relate to a desire for products with fewer chemicals. From there, we can delve further: is this desire rooted in environmental consciousness or personal health concerns? Does it have to do with concerns about oneself or the well-being of all family members, spanning generations? And could both men and women be equally motivated by these factors?
These hypotheses dive deep into the psyche of consumer decision-making. The goal is to discover bigger, more impassioned audiences that might have slipped through the cracks of our previous assumptions.
3. Test the hypothesis – with captivating content
Once our hypotheses are in place, it’s time to test them with tailored content crafted to tap into audience values. For those driven by personal health concerns, a tagline like “Your skin, your sanctuary” could strike a chord, while for those motivated by caring for others, a different angle like “Because family deserves the gentlest touch” might prove compelling.
The beauty of this approach is that the messages we test will be as diverse as the motivations they aim to capture, showcasing the pivotal role of creative content. In this landscape, where content is king again, marketers are tasked with a nuanced exploration of psychology.
Of course, coming up with great creative messaging is hard work. With generative AI, however, we can lighten the load to create a wide range of dynamic and personalized content that adapts to diverse audience needs.
Then, it’s time to let the algorithms do their work. Launch the ads and the algorithm will optimize to segments that engage with the message. To maximize your advertising budget, try a phased approach that tests a combination of broader targeting, in addition to historical top performers of 1P data, lookalike audiences, and keyword or interest targeting. The creative message is the new targeting approach.
4. Analyze the data – using predictive analytics
As the results come in, we can find out what’s working and what’s not. How did people react to our ads? Was their response what we expected?
To this end, we can use predictive analytics to sift through vast datasets, unveiling hidden trends and behaviors from past consumer interactions. This pattern recognition will pinpoint the most impactful messaging, channels, and timing to reach our target audiences.
5. Draw a conclusion – and reiterate
With data in hand, we can now better understand our audience. This is a crucial moment where we identify our true market and uncover the powerful psychological motivators that drive them. Analyzing the data allows us to pinpoint effective messaging and the most compelling psychological triggers.
Of course, the conclusions we come up with are not endpoints but merely stepping stones. Refining and redefining always continue as we form and test new hypotheses. Dynamic adaptability becomes the key to success.
Letting go of once-reliable hypersegmentation strategies and trying untested new tactics can feel like taking a risky step into the abyss. But this moment is an exciting era in marketing — a time that calls for experimentation, innovation, and creativity, with a range of new tools and ideas to explore. And in reality, Google, Meta and others are restricting advertisers from using detailed data that we’ve come to rely on. It’s a chance for those ready to embrace the dynamism of the algorithmic era to let go of the conventional, usher in the new, and set a course for lasting success.