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Impression Picks – Digital marketing roundup for November 2023

This article was updated on: 13.12.2023

Welcome to November’s edition of Impression Picks! This digital marketing roundup serves as some food for thought for you from Impression’s experts and the wider marketing community. Each month, we will highlight an interesting article, insight and campaign of the month.

This month features thoughts from our strategy team, including; Digital Experience Specialist, Yussuf Aamer, Digital Insights Analyst, Zoe Le, and Senior Paid Social Strategist, Ben Ross. As always, we hope you enjoy the content and insights we provide as a part of our monthly roundups.

We no longer live in the age of Mad Men, but of Math Men

What do we really know about the effectiveness of digital advertising?

For a long time, advertising was an art, not a science. Big data didn’t exist. You would pay millions for a TV ad then start praying. Would anyone see the ad? Would anyone act on it? Nobody knew. But this worked perfectly for advertisers, they are selling billions worth of advertising a year, so why would they want anyone to know what works and what doesn’t?

Today, with unprecedented precision, data giants like Google and Meta are the ones to go for if you’re after clicks, impressions and conversions. They will get the right message to the right people exactly at the right time. More than $250 billion is spent on digital advertising globally, and most of these ads are purchased from Google and Meta.

But the question is, is any of it real? Are these platforms really this good at manipulating us? The majority of brands today take their digital expenditure, combine it with the total sales and voila. They made X return on their spend. Great result! Or is it?

The main issue is what economists refer to as the ‘selection effect’. It is vital for advertisers to find ways to distinguish between people who see your ad, but are already going to click, buy or register from people who see your ad, and that’s why they start clicking, buying, registering, downloading etc. The benchmark companies use to measure effectiveness in terms of clicks, views, and sales is fundamentally misleading.

Fortunately, there is a way to measure the unadulterated effect of digital ads: experimentation. Divide the target group into two random cohorts in advance: one group sees the ad, the other does not. Designing the experiment thus excludes the effects of selection.

In 2011, eBay brought in a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley to conduct a few experiments. The first experiment he suggested; let’s stop all of our Google advertising for a while. Let’s see if it works as we think it does. Everyone anticipated a disaster, predicting at least a 5% drop in sales. But the impact? Nothing. For every dollar eBay spent on Google ads, they lost 63 cents. The 12X return they thought they were getting was actually tens of millions wasted on fruitless advertising.

We all at some point were able to get our heads around a cynical advertising world, but a naive one? A market of billions of pounds is governed by irrationality. It’s about big data and knowables, but even the big data sets don’t always provide insight.

If you want to learn more about this topic, this article from The Correspondent is an interesting read and includes some great insights from eBay, Facebook and Google.

Article reviewed by: Yuusuf Aamer

The sustainability spotlight: a key consumer trend for 2024

Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword; it’s a vital aspect of businesses today and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. A new report from Statista states that 45% of UK consumers consider themselves sustainable consumers as they will continue to embrace ethical and sustainable shopping choices in 2024 and beyond.

38% of respondents also agreed that sustainability should not be a luxury, with Gen Z being the most passionate about believing eco-friendly shopping should be accessible to everyone. 

But, when they do have to pay more, these ethical consumers are willing to pay a premium for essential goods that align with their values. In fact, over 40% of consumers are willing to invest more in sustainable Food and Drink products, while 1 in 3 are willing to do the same for Beauty and Personal care items. 

So, what can marketers do to capture ethical buyers? 

  • First, develop key messages that resonate with your audience, emphasising credibility and a genuine commitment to sustainable practices. 
  • Next, prioritise creating a well-executed sustainable brand image can be a powerful tool for attracting ethical buyers. 
  • Finally,  look to close the gap between sustainability and affordability with offers or practical pricing

By implementing these strategies, you can capitalise on the attention of environmentally and budget-consumers to build a loyal customer base that values sustainability and ethical shopping practices.

Insight by: Zoe Le

KFC: Is owning its pitfalls a branding masterclass?

KFC are back at it again, taking ownership of its pitfalls and putting a creative spin on it to turn it into a playful marketing campaign. But does this tactic work for every brand?

Most people will remember KFC’s #ChickenCrisis, where operational shortages led them to infamously suffer from a chicken shortage which created a new direction for its marketing messaging. Initially launched to limit the damage being caused to the brand, this campaign has since been praised as a fresh take on crisis management and set a new path for KFC’s brand messaging, which they still lean on today. 

But why does this approach work well for KFC? Would this tongue-in-cheek messaging style work for any brand? And what does a brand need to be conscious of before giving it a try?

Another recent notable example of humorous self-awareness has been with RyanAir. The UK airline has been taking a unique direction on TikTok as its content focuses on being low-cost, but well-aware of the level of service that they provide. They continue to embrace the negative perceptions that come with the brand to speak directly to its user base in a fun, comical way… And whilst this approach is not entirely new to RyanAir, given the airline has always had a comedic approach on its Twitter page, RyanAir has been able to leverage this style further by ensuring its content is suited specifically for TikTok.

While these are two great examples of brands succeeding with this approach, there are some key elements to be conscious of, as this approach may not suit the style of all brands:

  • Whilst your overall tone of voice (TOV) needs to be consistent in terms of its direction, you will need to tailor your TOV using platform-specific language and formats. TikTok content wouldn’t be suitable as a TV advert for example.

  • Often, there is a time and a place. Social channels allow more freedom for brands to speak directly to their customers in an interactive space – so it’s important that your tone of voice whilst representing the brand, is suited to fit platform norms and formats.

  • Customers more than ever want brands to speak to them like real humans, so brands must pick the best marketing channels that enable them to do this. Social is the ideal place to be more conversational and to fully embrace this.  However, if embraced, it’s key to fully own this messaging style and to be consistent to avoid looking like a crisis cover-up and to really build engagement with the audience.

For me, KFC’s brand and campaign-style stand out from the crowd, especially when compared to wider, more shiny rebrands (ahem – I’m lovin’ it), and I love the style of messaging and direction of the brand that they are continuing to pave.  And whilst they’re now promising that the new fries are “Available now (and Forever)”, I hope they aren’t ironically setting themselves up for a fries shortage…

Campaign reviewed by: Ben Ross

Look out for our next Impression Picks in December for more digital marketing articles, insights and campaigns to inspire your digital strategy. Have any further questions? Get in touch!