How to use retargeting ads without killing your brand reputation

Profit or brand reputation? When it comes to retargeting, it doesn't have to be a choice.

Ever since the launch of cookies in the 1990s, retargeting has struggled to shake off an air of mistrust. A year after cookies were first introduced, The Financial Times published an article which “exposed” the code that “stole” information.

Since then, retargeting ads have come a long way. Companies who focus their efforts on retargeting find their customers are 70% more likely convert after seeing a familiar ad. But while the success of retargeting is well-acknowledged, the myth that it could cost your brand reputation remains.

We don’t think retargeting ads should rake in profits at the expense of your brand. Done well, you can enjoy a high ROI without driving your audience to the nearest adblocker…

Times have changed

Advanced technology and heightened consumer awareness mean your retargeting campaigns no longer scare or confuse your audience.

Back in the earlier days of digital marketing, retargeting could seem a little… aggressive. Without following what are now known as best practises, companies would bombard their prospects with ads instantly and stalk them on every platform available.

But now, the industry has changed. With better uses of subtlety and segmentation (as we’ll explain below), retargeting ads are less creepy and more effective.

Take it slow and steady

The best retargeting campaigns should feel more like a gentle reminder than a stalking exercise. When a prospect leaves your product page, it could pay to delay your ad instead of instantly retargeting.

Leaving a bit of breathing space can make your campaign feel more natural – and it could boost your profits, too. If your ads appear immediately after a customer exits your page, it could be too much, too soon.

A bit of digging on the Time Lag report on Google Analytics can reveal how long you should delay ads for. If you find your audience’s sweet spot between their first visit and buying, you could enjoy optimum conversions and keep your brand reputation intact.

Creative campaigns convert

Many companies treat display ads like a necessary evil. Reuse the same old creatives, reap the rewards, rinse, and repeat.

But what happens when you dare to be different? With a bit of imagination, you could use your retargeting ads as an opportunity to showcase your brand’s creativity. Retargeting ads can be funny, thought-provoking, and interactive.

Take a look a this  Post-it note campaign. The ads allowed customers to create their own memos with digital post-its. Cleverly combining the function of their product with retargeting, customers were then followed by their personalised reminders. If they clicked on the ad, they could adjust and edit their reminders.

The way the audience played a role in the narrative added a refreshing bit of transparency to the campaign. It put the customers in the driving seat instead of simply being followed with zero explanation.

With personalisation, interactivity, and a memorable journey, Post-it proved that retargeting could put your brand under the spotlight – in the best possible way.

Talk to the right person, at the right time

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to retargeting campaigns. Applying the same tactics to your entire audience will undoubtedly frustrate some of your customers – which could endanger your brand reputation.

Instead, take some time to split your campaigns by audience behaviour. There are a few ways you can segment your audience:

  • demographics
  • actions they took on the site
  • actions they didn’t take on your page
  • how long they stayed on your page
  • where they live

The more personalised, the better. Tailoring your campaigns around customer habits will leave a better lasting impression than a random, scattered approach.

Customise your retargeting journey

We all know how annoying it is to be followed around by that one persistent ad. If you keep seeing the same ad popping up repeatedly, you can quickly associate the brand with spam.

Depending on how a customer engages with your ads, you could tweak your campaign around their interaction. Using a “trickle off” approach, you can only show ads to the audience who’ve shown an interest in your previous ones.

Using Facebook, you can create a custom audience by “engagement”. If your audience has shown zero interest in your ads, you can exclude them from your campaign. This can reduce any negative impact to your brand while focusing on an audience that’s likely to convert.

Change the narrative

Did a customer convert after clicking on your ad? If they’ve already bought a new phone, for example, they probably won’t need another in a hurry.

Existing customers don’t want to see ads for a product they’ve already bought. At the same time, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost them as a prospect. A converted customer has the potential to turn into a loyal advocate of your brand; if they’ve recently purchased a phone, they could be in the market for a phone case or insurance.

In a nutshell…

Repetitive and random retargeting can alienate your audience. But with a bit of segmentation and the right amount of creativity, you don’t need to let your brand reputation suffer. With more awareness of best practises, it’s possible to strike a balance between commercial success and positive engagement.

Want a helping hand with your campaigns? See how our paid media team can help

PPC Management