Shouldn't Brand Marketers Aim For Data And Targeting Accuracy?

"Fast is fine, but accuracy is important." That quote is attributed to Wyatt Earp, but I think it applies to marketing as well.  In a world of marketing that is quickly being pushed towards data-driven methodologies, I would think accuracy is one of the most important criteria, wouldn’t you?

I recently saw a quote from a CEO of a data company who said, “[In a] branding campaign, accuracy is not that important. “ The company and CEO shall remain nameless because I would never get into a verbal shoving match with someone in our industry, especially someone with a great track record of being an intelligent thinker. But I find this quote to be naïve and unsettling.  What data company would be willing to go on record and state that brand marketers need not be as accurate as other marketers?  I would think that signals a lack of understanding for how brand marketers approach their business.

Back in 1996, I started using the term “brand response” in my MediaPost articles to apply to brand marketers who were searching for some measure of accountability.  The term caught on, and many marketers shared the idea across the world: that all marketing needs to be accountable, whether it is directly attributable, or indirectly attributable and measured through semi-accurate proxies.  Those semi-accurate proxies, once established and maintained, become extremely important. In fact brand marketers are the most appreciative of these proxies because they add efficiencies and drive higher performance  -- all achievable at scale, which is probably the most important consideration for a brand marketer.



I will give the aforementioned CEO the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant brand marketers are looking for scale in prospecting against a broader audience, which could be inherently less accurate. Still, I think prospecting can be a very accurate, data-driven concept. 

The opposite of accuracy is the so-called “spaghetti strategy” of throwing a bunch of ideas against a wall and seeing what sticks. I despise that strategy, because it translates to a significant amount of waste.  It’s wasted impressions, wasted interactions and wasted budgets.  For me, any dollar wasted is a dollar lost -- and regardless of the size of your budget, waste is something to be avoided. 

I come from a background of “think big, but carry a small stick”: Think of big ideas, but apply them to small groups one at a time.  Test them out, see what works, beat the message down to an individual level, and scale from there. 

I think Wyatt Earp would agree with me if he were a marketer.  Segmenting audiences and targeting them with customized messaging based on previous interaction plus available data drives more efficiency and higher performance -- which reduces waste.  Why even take the chance of showing an unqualified audience your message when you know they are not going to respond? 

Brand marketers literally make the world go round.  Soft drink advertisers, CPG advertisers, auto advertisers, financial services advertisers -- all these folks carry the weight of the ad world on their backs by spending “brand dollars” to reach their audiences but every single one of them are searching for ways to squeeze more efficiency out of every dollar they spend  -- so to say that accuracy is not that important in brand marketing is naïve at best.

If you’re a brand marketer, do you agree with that statement?  Would you work with a data company or other service provider who said that?

2 comments about "Shouldn't Brand Marketers Aim For Data And Targeting Accuracy?".
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  1. Henry Harteveldt from Atmosphere Research Group, February 19, 2014 at noon

    Agree with you, Cory. I can understand where, in some cases, brand marketers may need or choose to compromise on the level of accuracy needed for a particular campaign, based on factors such as the campaign's objectives, targeting cost, availability/quality of data, and timing. IMO, sacrificing any degree of accuracy is akin to wasting money.

  2. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, February 19, 2014 at 12:58 p.m.

    Multivalent tests (such as A:B tests) are just a more scientific way of throwing a bunch of ideas against a wall and seeing what sticks. And this methodology is generally accepted I think, where you have a large-enough target audience. Of course, if you're like Wyatt Earp or some B2B marketers and you're dealing with a very small sample size, then you don't have that choice and accuracy is the only sensible goal.

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