Privacy is changing online advertising

June 3, 2021

What is Facebook? The company tells us that it’s a social media platform where 2.7 billion people – from teenagers to octogenarians across the globe – commiserate, look at photos, and provide life updates. But behind each post, “like,” and comment is a digital footprint which Facebook uses for its real business: selling your personal data to advertisers for big bucks. Facebook earned $26 billion last quarter, making it the second-largest online advertising platform in the world.

Facebook selling your private information has helped millions of businesses reach potential customers with amazing accuracy. But improved online privacy policies announced by two of Facebook’s competitors will reduce the tracking which makes this data available. This may cut Facebook’s sales by billions of dollars and will likely slash the pinpoint targeting to which businesses have become accustomed. One change is coming through the most recent set of updates to Apple iPhones. Others are coming through Google’s web browser and Android phone platforms.

Less consumer data has serious implications for small businesses. Reaching a target market will be much harder, more expensive, and more time-consuming. Facebook used this argument to accuse Apple of using privacy to hurt small businesses.

Businesses which want to thrive in the new digital advertising ecosystem should engage in surround-sound marketing. This is a strategy which incorporates paid media (ads), earned media (press), and owned media (content on platforms you own, such as a company website) to reach your prospective customers and all of the people who influence their decisions, such as family, friends, colleagues, and subordinates.

Create a rich marketing experience for your target markets

Imagine you’re going on vacation in the family car. Everyone is listening to a song on the radio. One way to listen is through a single speaker from the front of the car. A second way is to listen through two speakers which are on the left and right sides of the front of the car. And the third way is with speakers on the front left, front right, back left, and back right of the car — creating a rich listening experience no matter where you’re sitting.

Companies which use a single “speaker” to reach their target markets may secure some sales from a particular segment. But the approach is limited because few prospects are reached, and even those prospects are reached in only one way, in only one direction. Online, perhaps they saw your ad and made a one-time purchase. But that’s it; the customer’s brand loyalty is zero. And this approach is about to become even less effective because of Google’s and Apple’s privacy changes.

Companies which use two widely-spaced, front-centered speakers will create a richer experience for target markets. Potential customers will see your marketing and branding collateral multiple times in different ways. However, it’s limited because your strategy is still one-directional – front-to-back, meaning you mostly reach the driver and the passenger. If they are the purchasers, that’s good. But just like an online marketing strategy which uses Facebook but ignores Google ads and getting in the press, the kids in the back of the car — the purchasers’ influencers – won’t hear your message as clearly. They won’t have the same rich experience as the people in the front of the car.

We employ a surround-sound approach for our digital marketing clients. This puts “speakers” throughout the car so that purchasers and influencers have the same rich experience no matter where they sit. Prospective customers’ spouses, kids, and colleagues are talking you up. Prospects and influencers see your ads in Google searches, on social media, and on their favorite websites. And your name comes up in relevant press through influencer endorsements, interviews, articles, and op-eds.

Five advantages to surround-sound marketing

Surround-sound marketing is a time-tested, proven strategy which existed long before the Internet. Home service companies with great radio advertising, memorable names, quality service, and many vehicles on the road use this strategy. So do law, accounting, or financial advisory firms which are featured in the press, are on relevant boards of directors, have personal relationships with community leaders, and host livestreamed events.

There are many advantages to this strategy. Here are five:

  1. Reach many market segments at once. You can then choose which one(s) to prioritize, and to which to tailor critical tactics like pricing, customer service, and capital purchases.
  2. Create sales without being “salesy.” The Apple iPhone, the Google search engine, and the Facebook profile page have strong brands. They don’t have to “sell” you on using them — you’re probably already hooked because everyone seems to be talking about them and using them. Sales are a lot easier when prospective customers call you instead of the other way around.
  3. Improved brand loyalty to increase gross sales and net revenue. Providing the richest marketing experience means customers may return more frequently for purchases instead of going to your competitors. They may also buy more with each purchase.
  4. Reach new target markets who want your existing products and services. Surround-sound marketing uses all available tools to create a data-rich environment to guide future decision-making. With this data – digital or otherwise – you can use your own milestones and metrics of success to see new expansion opportunities.
  5. Create new target markets. Apple was a computer company in the 20th century. It added listening devices and services like iPods and iTunes 20 years ago. In 2020, it made 50% of its $274 billion by selling iPhones to a target market which didn’t exist two decades ago.

Earn more customer loyalty to drive more sales

Thanks to consumer privacy concerns, pinpoint online advertising may be on the way out. This means businesses have to work harder to reach prospective customers and to convince those prospects to make purchases. The question is how to do it – and we recommend surround-sound marketing to earn more customer loyalty and to drive more sales.


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