Engage, Don’t Assume: Embracing Your Audience’s Individuality

You’ve probably heard the recent buzz about a college graduation speech where a male speaker made a sweeping generalization targeted at the female graduates. Unsurprisingly, this sparked outrage across the country, with even the nuns affiliated with the college penning an open letter highlighting how they, as women, chose very different paths to fulfillment. This incident, likely to become a classic example in the canon of “Lessons in Poor Judgement”, also serves as a critical reminder for advertisers who often make broad assumptions about their audiences.

In marketing, we create personas to better understand our customers, outlining why they buy our services or how they use our products. It’s a way to make ads more relatable and relevant, while keeping us as marketers cognizant of who we’re targeting every step of the creation process. However, as people increasingly embrace their individuality and pursue what truly brings them joy, these personas can sometimes feel overly simplistic. 

We are moving toward a more privacy-friendly industry and certainly don’t want the hyper-personalized ads, as seen in Minority Report. But do want to maintain a level of personalization, since it can deliver real results. So, how do we cater to these diverse needs in our advertising?  Here’s one idea: ask questions directly in the ads. Doing this allows you to collect zero-party data, or information a consumer voluntarily shares with a brand, which is a privacy-friendly alternative in the midst of data deprecation. It’s something we at ViralGains have been passionate about since our inception – talking WITH your customers, not AT them.  

By doing so, we show consumers that we value their individuality and their opinions matter to our brand. This approach not only helps us create better, more relevant ads but also allows us to respectfully recognize when we might not be the right fit and move on to the next potential customer. Plus, you might learn something new about potential customers, opening up new avenues for your products and services. And there’s data to back it up. Our study with IPG Media Labs and MAGNA found that the approach boosts brand trust by 2.3x, doubles website visits, and reduces wasted ad impressions by 59%

Here are a few examples of how some of our customers utilized this exact approach. 

  • A primary care group boosted ad engagement threefold by asking people to select which service features—like same-day appointments or online scheduling—they valued most in a branded display ad. This personalization led to more relevant information being shown based on user choice. 
  • A major clothing retailer used a ViralGains survey in their video ad to ask who people were shopping for during the holiday season—a kid, a friend, or a significant other. Each option directed viewers to a curated gift guide for that recipient. This video ad became the top performer in engagement and drove a 2.2% point increase in purchase intent compared to a control, a significant boost for a popular holiday shopping destination.
  • A major voice assistant brand partnered with us to ask consumers about their perception of their brand in their video ad. Those who answered negatively, received a follow-up question asking why they felt that way.  Noticing low perception was often due to privacy concerns, they later tackled this issue humorously in a new ad, turning the initial negative feedback into a positive ad campaign by directly addressing consumer concerns.

In the world of advertising, addressing your audience with generalized messaging about them is a far outdated tactic. Rather, brands should engage with their audience, listen to their needs, and acknowledge their unique perspectives. Not doing so would be like a football team missing a field goal during a pivotal moment of a game. Despite all the effort and preparation, failing to seize this critical opportunity can mean the difference between a winning and losing ad campaign.

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