Signal Use Case: Cross-Channel Marketing Frequency Measurement

For over a century, the two main pivot points for modern marketing have been reach (the number of your target audience you expose to your messaging) and frequency (the average number of ad exposures per person). Offline, reach and frequency are measured using sophisticated modeling tools used to statistically project these metrics. For the first decade or so of digital marketing (when over 90% of brand-customer interactions happened on the desktop web), ad servers were able to track consumers via third-party cookies and provide fairly accurate numbers for digital marketers to evaluate campaigns.

And then everything changed.

Consumer engagement with digital advertising is now so fragmented across channels and devices that frequency management is incredibly difficult and has basically been rendered null and void.

Why is this a challenge? Well, each time a customer engages with your marketing content–say, either viewing or clicking a desktop banner ad–they are tagged with a unique ID. As long as your ad technology can detect that ID, it can generally track all of their interactions, but only against that one ID. If the same consumer then interacts with a mobile web ad, they are tagged with a new ID. A mobile app? A new ID. An email? A new ID. And so on.

Digital frequency management in a cross-channel marketing world is broken because even if you try to set an average frequency cap of ten impressions per consumer per week, you may end up reaching them many, many more times because each consumer may be represented by numerous IDs in your systems. If you’re tracking eight IDs for one consumer, and they are exposed to ten impressions per ID, that’s 80 impressions to that consumer.

The problem that comes with the lack of frequency awareness

There are important reasons why frequency has been such a key variable for marketers. Fine tuning just the right average frequency of messaging in the market has proven over time to be part of the right approach to successful marketing.

Early marketers figured out pretty quickly that getting the word out about their products and services helped to increase sales. But with all of the noise and clutter bombarding consumers, there’s an optimal threshold of ad exposure required to ensure lift and impact. If you don’t reach a minimum frequency with each customer, they simply won’t notice or remember you

However, a marketing strategy that is too aggressive can be detrimental to your efforts. Just as there’s a minimum frequency needed to stand out from the crowd, eventually the law of diminishing returns kicks in and every ad exposure over a maximum optimal frequency is simply wasted. How many commercials does a consumer need to see about the next big blockbuster movie once they’ve decided to either see it or not?

In essence, every ad after that amount is wasted budget that could have been invested elsewhere. Also–and especially online–there’s a danger of overexposure and the “creepy factor” when consumers feel a brand is following them around the web.

Frequency awareness is absolutely essential to ensuring your marketing maintains an optimal range of average minimum and maximum ad exposure to your target audience. 

Signal fixes the frequency problem

That’s why Signal’s platform can ingest every customer ID across your varied marketing platforms, and merge those IDs into a single customer view. The platform achieves this by collecting and centralizing customer engagement data, processing and normalizing it, and then stitching together customer IDs.

This data collection crosses channels and devices and even offline data from CRMs, point-of-sale systems, kiosks, and call centers can be connected back to a portion of your customers for even greater visibility of your marketing frequency.

Frequency capping ensures that each of your customers has the most impactful experience with your brand messages without feeling too targeted or overexposed. Universal Frequency Capping is one of the many valuable uses for Signal’s platform—and when all of your data is collected and connected, your tools work better together.

Originally published December 17, 2014

Josh Dreller was formerly Director of Product Marketing at Signal.

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