Why is reach important

Ossi Ahto / October 2015

The traditional way to craft a brand marketing strategy has been to create a value proposition accordingly for your brand, think who could potentially be interested in it, and then target those people via marketing messages. But this approach rests on the assumption that you already know who will be interested in your brand. Smart brands use the broad reach of digital to tap into and understand audiences outside their preconceived target groups.

The past few years have given rise to the golden age of social media marketing. Many brand-focused companies have shifted their digital measurement from dull click-through rates and impressions to harnessing likes, shares and comments. We’ve heard that a brand is nothing without its advocates and that true fans are much more valuable than traditional advertising. This, of course, can be true in some cases; one powerful advocate can influence potential buyers and turn them into consumers more efficiently than even the strongest of advertising could do.

However, from the commercial point of view, this is usually either trivial and/or driven by good products, not by communication. The challenge is that in many cases “likes” and “shares” are nothing but clicks, and the number of these interactions for many big brands is simply too low to have bigger commercial value. What is needed is mass-media thinking combined with the performance tracking opportunities that digital can offer.

The traditional way to craft a brand marketing strategy has been to create a value proposition for your brand, think who could be possibly interested in it, and then target those people with your marketing communication in media. This has worked for many brands, or at least this has been the common agreement in the marketing industry (with the absence of good tools to consistently measure correctly).

But this approach rests on a big assumption. You assume that you know exactly who could be interested in your brand. You know that the 18-year-old adrenalin junkie is the most probable energy drink consumer and so you target him – as do all of your competitors. Then when you look at the comments on your YouTube video, or the likes on your Facebook ad, you wonder why half of them are coming from demographics outside your target group. Could it be that your assumption about who might be interested in your brand or message wasn’t right after all?

“Without first starting with broad reach, many of your potential consumers are liable to never hear of your brand, message or proposition.“

This is where the old, traditional ways of measuring advertising’s potential meets newer media. We are living in an era where it’s possible to not only pinpoint your target, but to communicate directly to carefully chosen target groups. Yet without proper reach, the targeting options in digital marketing might lead you to target your brand to its death, by assuming that only your preconceived target groups are entitled to hear your message, or that only the people who “like” your brand are worthy of your advertising budget.

The days of digital brand building allows companies to understand how people interact with their broader message and then help companies target more effectively using proxies from their database. But without first starting with bigger reach, many potential consumers are liable to never hear of your brand, message or proposition. (Read more on this topic in Occam’s Razor, the blog by Avinash Kaushik). The post-modern consumer is providing fewer and fewer hints on their media consumption and, as we know, can jump from content to content in the blink of an eye. This is why even in these days of sharp-edge targeting, broad reach is still important.

Let’s stop here and think about how this can work in practice. A family is sitting in front of TV watching a singing competition show on Saturday evening (yes, this is still happening!). During the ad break, there is one person in the family who finds an ad interesting enough to find out more using his or her smartphone. After this interaction, it’s up to the advertiser to decide how this valuable piece of information is used. It is now much more efficient to start creating the repetition of the ad in digital formats than via traditional TV advertising.

There’s no doubt that the lower parts of the funnel are the ones where many marketers should focus their attention, as these are closer to the purchasing event. To guarantee that all potential consumers have the possibility to enter the funnel, there is a clear need to create the reach. Traditional media still offers many great ways to reach masses of people with relatively small costs. When choosing digital channels for bigger reach, the advantage is that you have the opportunity to start gathering valuable data from the first touchpoint onwards.

To summarize, here are the top three things that any advertiser should consider when devising a brand’s reach strategy:

  1. Don’t limit yourself too much to preconceived target groups; start with broad reach and target when there’s action happening.
  2. Using digital channels in broad reach advertising allows you to better use attribution in order to estimate which channels are most effective at driving people down the funnel.
  3. Track where you’re getting the best performing reach at lowest cost. These are the key elements in upper funnel communication KPIs.
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