Google remarketing that treats prospects with respect

Oct 8, 2016 | Communications & media, Digital marketing, retail trends

The constant reappearance of the same handful of ads as you travel around the internet can be annoying at best and unnerving at worst. Remarketing can create that lingering feeling that you are under surveillance and is enough to make anyone feel a bit uneasy. And not just from a consumer perspective. I am equally uneasy about the damaging effect that inappropriate or poorly executed remarketing activity can have on brands as well.

There has been a lot written about remarketing and there are strong arguments and statistics on both sides of the stalker divide, but the way I see it, it is not the practice of remarketing itself that carries the risk but more so the danger of getting the mix wrong.

For those who don’t know, remarketing is the increasingly popular marketing practice whereby a consumer takes some online action that notionally self-qualifies them as a prospect. Most commonly this is triggered clicking on an ad or by visiting the advertiser’s website. The cookies placed on the consumer’s machine are then used to show ads for that advertiser repeatedly on other sites as they travel around the internet.

There is no question that this is enormously powerful. Unlike a specific site placement campaign, you can build up your effective frequency far more quickly without relying on the prospect returning to the same site and hanging around to see your ad again. It also reduces the snowblinding that can happen when the same ad appears repeatedly within the same content by ensuring that your ads are shown to tagged prospects in a range of (hopefully) relevant content environments.

One of the more spectacularly direct arguments comes from Wordstream’s Larry Kim. It’s a great overview and a must-read if you are contemplating remarketing. Similarly, analysis from PPC Hero on some of their own client campaigns provides a handy window into the engine room of a dual channel search campaign and demonstrates the impressive impact of adding a strong remarketing stream to your campaign. According to PPC Hero

“…the Remarketing campaign has a 22% cheaper Average Cost Per Click. This advantage, along with the slightly higher Conversion Rate amounts to a 25% lower Cost Per Conversion in comparison to our Search campaigns… for this account, Remarketing accounted for 16.61% of all conversions over the past six months, at only 12.93% of the total cost.”.

There seems little question that when done right, the benefits to campaign performance and brand building can be dramatic. The real question is what happens when it isn’t done right.

Remarketing advocates claim that remarketing improves the experience of users by surrounding users with ads that interest them. While that might be true, this benefit can be undermined over time by poor frequency control and insufficient creative variation.

Familiarity breeds contempt – cap your frequency

It seems that this is where lots of new remarketers come undone. High frequency levels, combined with only one or two creative executions is a recipe for fatigue. And it’s the fatigue that makes for that stalking sensation. There are plenty of views about the ideal frequency cap with the general consensus (such as it is) landing at a frequency cap of 3-4.

However, it pays to remember that few campaigns are sufficiently alike to make a hard and fast rule and that if you can, you are far better to use your own data.

To get a true indication of where your frequency sweet spot is, you can use your campaign data via the Dimensions tab in your Adwords account to identify the point of diminished return on your campaign. You can learn how to calculate your campaign frequency cap here.

Get creative – take the opportunity to test multiple propositions

The absence of sufficient creative seems to be the other common flaw in less successful remarketing campaigns. I know of remarketing clients who have been allowed to undertake agency-driven campaigns with a single piece of generic brand creative. Aside from the fact that it leaves no scope for optimisation of creative, it misses another critical point. It misses a huge opportunity to change the propositions over time to reframe the offer and demonstrate more of what the brand does.

If the aim is to keep the brand in front of the prospect in a way that continues to pique their interest and remind them of their initial interest, then a single piece of creative isn’t going to cut it. At best it will simply become slightly annoying wallpaper. At worst, it will make the attempt to remarket painfully obvious and the behaviour of the brand “salesy” and shows a certain lack of respect for the prospect.

This is the underlying concern of those who claim that remarketing devalues the brand.

Remember, you are always making an impression

As more and more marketers take advantage of the performance benefits of remarketing it is easy to forget the brand impact of doing so poorly. Ensuring that you are setting your frequency and creative levels correctly shows that you respect the prospect, can deliver performance returns and also presents the breadth of your offering without creating the perception of being a brand stalker.

It’s important to remember that by action or omission, your brand is always making an impression. So its worth fine-tuning your remarketing activity to make sure that its making the right impression.