Treating John Wanamaker’s Pain

John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” This frustration, of course, was the symptom of the larger disease known as “media waste.”  The embrace of digital technologies, Big Data and user segmentation by marketers is slowly but surely eliminating the wasted half of advertising and making promotion smarter.

To reach healthcare patients, some of the tactics employed with great success to eliminate waste include: Specific keyword search terms, contextual targeting, customer segmentation and profiling on social media, and the use of geo-medical targeting to fine tune a campaign into the most relevant geo-graphic areas in which the most diagnosis of a condition or prescriptions for your brand are identified—as well as pricing models where advertisers pay only for results.

When messaging physicians and healthcare professionals, these methods, along with further professional tactics includes: Prescriber authentication, registration, look-a-like modeling through matching characteristics in disparate cookie pools and interest-based targeting based on past sites and pages visited by the user. These additional tactics can be very effective.

As we improve our targeting however, we must also improve our marketing approach and evolve the way we think about marketing. When you are targeting a niche audience very precisely, for example, it is easy to overdo it. Specifically, marketing to a small group can become quite invasive—and even annoying—if we don’t appropriately frequency cap our messaging. This can be particularly challenging when working with multiple competing partners who cannot easily collaborate in your desire to frequency cap. While each partner may do so independently, the end user may still receive far too much messaging—as it gets delivered by multiple parties.

Remove 50% of Waste, Increase ROI

If we eliminate the 50% of the reach where the marketing budget was wasted, savings result for the brand—and theoretically—marketing budgets should also shrink by half as a result.  However, with more accurate reach, the return on an invested marketing dollar will increase and marketers will be allocated a larger portion of resources. Thus, marketing budgets will actually grow. It can, however, become challenging to spend these new dollars. We can’t simply do twice as much advertising as we used to do to the same audience. Our marketing messages must instead evolve and add ever-increasing value to the customer if we are to remain relevant. In short, marketing must evolve into a form of delivering value through customer service.

While we have not yet completely cured the disease of media waste that plagues all marketers, including John Wanamaker, we’ve certainly eradicated much of it. But we can eradicate all of it by refocusing our thinking and distilling our marketing approach to providing value and service to our customers. I think Mr. Wanamaker would be pleased with how far we’ve come and proud of where we are going.


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