Why Consumer Sentiment Impacts the Ad Journey

Whether the goal is product sales or brand health, marketers can focus on telling more relevant stories. These can drive a consumer’s journey by optimizing brand campaigns for consumer sentiment, writes Tod Loofbourrow, CEO and Chairman of ViralGains.

Every marketer knows that for a story to be great, it must first be relevant to a consumer. Yet, most advertising relies on broad “audience targeting” to determine an advertisement’s audience. When it comes to placing ads, most marketing relies on a “spray and pray” approach that ignores consumer sentiment.

Working with MAGNA and IPG Media Labs, we tested an alternative approach now used by about a third of Fortune 100 companies—managing a consumer’s journey with a brand by responding in real time to consumer sentiment. We found that using a consumer journey approach to advertising based on continuous measurement of consumer sentiment in real time yielded extraordinary results.

MAGNA and IPG Media Labs tested two video ad journeys—one on brand health and one on path-to-purchase—among 6,000 consumers. The resulting study found that 59 percent of ad impressions, on average, are wasted with traditional video targeting. Dollars could be better allocated to consumers with higher likelihood of engagement. Beyond the wasted media dollars, there is a wasted opportunity. Our findings show that audiences on a sentiment-driven journey are 2.7x more likely to search for the brand and 2x more likely to visit the brand’s website in the time period after exposure to the ad. In other words, optimizing for sentiment allows marketers to tell a more relevant, and ultimately, better story.

What happens without optimization?

First and foremost, failing to optimize means ad dollars that are wasted on the wrong people. Historically, marketers have had to accept waste, but with a growing mandate to drive business outcomes, marketers need to account for every dollar spent. We’re not just talking about a few dollars at the margins. We found that by suppressing audiences who are unlikely to be interested in the brand or in making a purchase, and reallocating impressions to those who are highly likely to show interest, marketers can reallocate an average of $59,000 on a $100,000 campaign. That’s real money—enough to reach twice as many people who are likely to engage with and buy from the brand.

But there’s another cost for campaigns that aren’t optimized for sentiment. Our study showed that serving the wrong ad to your audience can have a net negative impact on how your brand is perceived. At best, the wrong ad might annoy audiences, but in some cases the wrong ad can significantly hurt the way a brand is perceived.

The flip side is that marketers can optimize for sentiment and improve brand perception. Serving a corporate responsibility ad to viewers with low brand interest increased brand trust by 2.2x and brand favorability by 4x, according to our findings. By understanding the perceptions in consumers’ minds at scale as a campaign runs, a brand can both extend positive brand perception into buying journeys, and change the direction of negative brand perception.

How does optimization work to drive sales?

After seeing an ad, consumers are brought into an engagement experience, such as asking a question: “How likely are you to buy?” or “How likely are you to test drive?” At that point, the viewer indicates their likelihood to purchase by selecting a star on a scale of one to five, with five indicating a high likelihood to purchase.

From there, machine learning processes attitudinal and behavioral data to determine which optimized ad each individual should see next. If the viewer doesn’t demonstrate interest, the next ad on the journey is suppressed. But if the viewer does express interest, they’ll see a second ad for the same product, chosen for maximum relevance to that consumer, thus moving them further along in their journey with a relevant ad experience.

The key is that each iteration drives toward greater relevance, even if it means segmenting out certain members of the audience who can’t be persuaded to purchase or rethink their opinion of the brand. But for those audiences who are interested in the product or the brand, the overall ad experience is significantly improved. Our study found that 85 percent of consumers experiencing the positive consumer journey approach agreed that the ads they saw were interesting. Seventy-six percent agreed that the ads were relevant, and 66 percent said the ads were informative.

How does optimization drive brand health?

In addition to testing a sales-focused campaign, we also tested a brand health campaign. Here, the viewers saw a similar survey at the end of the video, except the question was something like: “What is your perception of the brand?” or “Do you think that Company X is an innovator?”

Because a brand health campaign is different from a sales campaign, sentiment optimization plays a different role in the consumer journey. Audiences who express a negative opinion of the brand see a second ad with a corporate responsibility message designed to transform them from non-fans to fans. Their journey is one of changing brand perception, while another more positive consumer receives a journey driving toward purchase and working to turn positive brand feelings into brand enthusiasm and advocacy.

By capturing, measuring and responding programmatically in real time to consumer sentiment and feedback, marketers can significantly improve their chances of making a positive impact. Our study found that brand trust improved by 18 percent for an optimized journey, compared to 4 percent for a non-optimized journey. Meanwhile, optimizing campaigns based on sentiment improved a brand’s trustworthiness by 16 percent, compared to just 2 percent when the message was not optimized. The overall ad experience also improved on brand health campaigns. Sixty-five percent of viewers came away with a new insight into the brand, while 86 percent considered the brand health message they saw as informative. Sixty percent of viewers said the ads showed the human side of the brand.

But turning a non-fan into a fan isn’t the end of the story. A successful engagement with a brand health campaign can dovetail into a consumer journey with a sales goal. So while sentiment optimization certainly has its value within the context of a specific campaign, it has an even greater value when applied to the funnel as a whole. Because while some consumers aren’t receptive to a brand’s story, a great many more people online are reachable, as long as the art of storytelling is served by the science of relevant journey-based distribution.

This article originally appeared on MarTech Advisor, on March 22nd.