Marketing in Times of Crisis

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This post was originally published on Incubeta’s blog.

Seeing stores close and all the doom and gloom on the news, you can completely understand why brands are becoming increasingly panicked about the state of their business and as such are rethinking their media strategies.

Industries like travel and entertainment have been forced into shutting up shop as leaving the house becomes more and more discouraged around the world. The retail world, however, is a bit more of a mixed bag; some verticals are in decline, while others experience somewhat of a mini-boom, but with constantly changing governmental regulations, can we expect this to continue?

As the situation develops, with new policies and fluctuating consumer confidence, how can you promote your businesses while minimizing risk? We’re going to take a look at 5 things businesses can be doing right now to improve efficiency and ensure the profitability of marketing campaigns, both in the short term and the long.


One of the most obvious steps to guarantee return on your ad spend is to factor product margin into your campaigns across all levels. This may seem obvious – of course you’d want to promote your higher-margin products more aggressively – but you’d be surprised how few businesses are set up to do this.

Pushing the cost of producing each product into the product feed allows you to make more intelligent business decisions throughout your marketing efforts. You can optimize Shopping campaigns towards profitability and you can ensure high-margin products are the ones getting displayed in carousel creatives.

This is hugely valuable in any situation, but with the profitability of your campaigns under a microscope, particularly with a lot of retailers running various promotions in an attempt to liquidate their stock, it becomes even more important now. Incorporating margin into bidding and creative decisions should be one of your highest priorities, but it’s also important to incorporate other factors. Does one product happen to have a higher lifetime value than another? Does a particular product often lead to sales of complementary goods and increased basket value? These are all things you should consider when implementing your product bidding strategies.


In a similar vein, incorporating stock levels into campaigns is vital to ensure campaign efficiency. Platforms such as Google will help you to stop running ads for individual products which have run out of stock, but should these campaigns have been shut off before this point? Do you want to be wasting your ad spend on a product that’s only available in an XXXL that no one wants to buy? Conversely if a product is selling itself via organic channels, do you want to be using up valuable budget promoting these products?

Product stock levels can even be used for goal setting and planning. If liquidity is an issue for your business as the economy begins to slow, you can also leverage your stock levels to dictate the ROI goals for various products, loosening efficiency targets for product ranges with a stock surplus to help sell them quicker. 

Pay It Forward

Since the start of Covid-19, many advertisers have had to completely rethink the way they use their resources. As brands reduce spend in certain areas they may now have some saved ad spend as well the human resource that was required to deliver it. How can businesses repurpose that resource, in a manner that will benefit the company in the long run?

This is a great opportunity to pay your money forward, where possible, to longer-term success. We’re seeing brands invest their spare resources into training and upskilling their staff, investment in bigger SEO and CX projects, and even running in-depth Analytics projects. These kinds of activity mean that when business returns to normal, ad spend is being utilized as efficiently as possible.

External Data Sources

We as marketers have a tendency to believe that any change in campaign performance was driven by the little tweaks we made, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. More often than not, a big swing in performance is down to an external factor beyond our control. Being able to factor those drivers of demand into campaigns will allow for far more efficient use of ad spend.

For instance, performance can live or die based on where competitors prices are set. There are tools available that will collate the pricing levels of your competitor set, benchmark against yourself and push this data back into your feed – allowing you to make the most of your comparative advantage.

Demand for some products is largely dependent on things like the weather or even sports schedules. Sadly for all of us, weather and sport are most likely not having quite the same impact in the current climate, but again setting up campaigns to ingest this sort of data is another example of long term projects that can be tackled now!

Performance Models

The final thing to explore when seeking profitability from campaigns is actually oft-overlooked, and that’s pure performance marketing. Continuing to stump up the money to meet minimum spends or committing to platform fees for top-of-the-line campaign management technology can be a daunting prospect during times like these. Performance marketing offers an alternative. By engaging partners on a pay-per-sale format, you can guarantee marketing campaigns at a risk-free, fixed return on investment.

Affiliate marketing has often been dismissed as nothing but cashback and voucher codes. Today though, you can get everything from search to display to social campaign management at fixed costs per acquisition (CPAs). In this arrangement, all media costs are covered upfront and brands are only charged a pre-agreed commission based on total revenue (or action) driven. Not only does this give peace of mind in uncertain times but it also incentivizes your partner to drive the best results they can within that fixed ROI goal, as the more sales they drive the bigger their fee.

Just like the more traditional agencies of the world, many businesses operating in this space utilize elite technology like the Google Marketing Stack or Kenshoo. Where they differ is that performance agencies often cover these costs themselves too, and also regularly include services like feed management or creative execution free of charge as it’s in their interests to do so.

This sort of model might not work for everyone and now may not seem like quite the right time to switch over a particular channel. However, the beauty of the performance model is that it can act very much as an extension of your current campaigns. Brands can engage agencies on a performance model to support territories or channels that aren’t getting the attention required and often on shorter-term contracts.

These are incredibly uncertain times for advertisers, and for a lot of brands, marketing their business might be a luxury they don’t think they can currently afford. Hopefully, by implementing some of the steps above, marketers can return to trying to grow their businesses, safe in the knowledge their campaigns are driving effective, profitable returns.

3 Tips for Black Friday 2017: What You Need to Know

Although we’re still enjoying the final days of summer (summer doesn’t officially end until 22nd of September), it’s already time to start thinking about our Black Friday strategies. Don’t get caught off guard waiting until the last minute to plan your campaigns. Now is the time to go over last year’s metrics and see what worked and what didn’t.

There has been a gradual decline in Boxing Day sales as the popularity of this American retail holiday overtakes the Christmas period. Retailers are seeing better returns after jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon, with the increase in traffic in some instances as high as 27%. When comparing Black Friday to Boxing Day, conversions are consistently higher on Black Friday. According to The Independent, last year, UK shoppers spent an astonishing £3.3bn over the course of the Black Friday holiday season. Our client data shows that that Black Friday, and smaller surrounding retail holidays linked to it, are vastly outperforming Boxing Day. Black Friday is here to stay in the UK, and must be taken seriously by retailers and advertisers as part of the marketing mix.

Recent Trends

Black Friday is Coming Earlier and Earlier

Much like the dreaded “Back-to-School” commercials popping up at the end of July, or Christmas jingles before Halloween, Black Friday is beginning to follow that trend with many brands starting sales in the lead up to the actual holiday. In 2015, online giant Amazon started its sales 12 days before Black Friday. Other retailers have started to get in on the trend to make the most of the pre-Christmas season. With companies like Sears Canada releasing their Black Friday deals on October 6th last year, has predicted that in 2017,  the holiday prices will be leaked in early October once again, if not late September.

Sofa Shopping

Online shopping on Black Friday continues to steadily increase. In 2012, 33% of consumers preferred to shop from the comfort of their own homes, to avoid the long lines, fighting, and in-store chaos that the holiday provokes. As of 2016, the stay-at-home shopping figure has risen to 44%. This trend will continue in 2017 especially as most retail sites are mobile and tablet friendly, making shopping from home, the bank, or on the go, a pleasant experience. The top stores reaping the most digital rewards in the UK are Argos, Amazon, M&S, Curry’s and Tesco Direct.

Make it Mobile

It’s a foregone conclusion, but advertisers must make their Black Friday campaigns cross-device friendly. While many people are shifting to digital indoor shopping instead of pounding the pavement, they are predominantly shopping via mobile devices on the go. Desktop is no longer the main digital channel for Black Friday shoppers.  Mobile searches have grown 50% since 2016, with bargain hunters looking for the best brands, and then for the best deals. Mobile and tablets will continue to drive more shoppers to make online purchases. In order to assure campaign success, mobile and tablet channels must provide relevant targeting and seamless shopping experiences.

How to Crack Christmas

If you would like to learn more about spicing up your Christmas campaign you can watch the replay of our “How to Crack Christmas Webinar,” your ultimate guide to holiday success.

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Mood Tracking & Emotional Advertising: What Does the Future Hold

The term ‘emotional targeting’ has been around the digital marketing world for a few years now, although the idea is nothing new. Emotional targeting was around in a ‘Mad Men’ sort of way for decades before digital marketing exploded. But emotional targeting then and now are different beasts.

There are two ways to look at emotional targeting, the first and more traditional method is to create an ad that ignites a strong emotional response from a consumer which will drive them to take action, whether that’s buying something, sharing, or donating. Emotional advertising is incredibly popular because as studies show, we often rely on our emotions to make purchasing decisions, rather than facts and information. A great example of this is Oxfam, whose ads often tear at our heartstrings, encouraging us to make a difference.

As technology progressed, advertising has developed ways to not just ignite emotional responses but to track them.  Affectiva, is a technology company that has created emotion recognition software that can analyse a user’s facial expressions to determine how they are feeling.

Currently, the technology is used by advertisers and media agents to determine the effect their current advertising is having on the end consumer. But, what if we could tailor ads based on someone’s current emotions?

Well, technically the technology already exists. Earlier this year, Facebook was put under scrutiny when it came to light that they were collecting data that would allow advertisers to target emotionally vulnerable people as young as 14 in Australia. Facebook had been collecting data points from items such as post, pictures, and reactions to determine the emotional state its younger users.

A Facebook spokesperson commented on the leaked research stating, “Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state. The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook.”

So where is this technology and digital advertising heading?

Where It’s Headed

Facial Recognition: Some brands have been quick to try new developments such as eye tracking in an attempt to overcome language biases or lack of clarity.  The drawback here is that this method requires consent – how many people will actually want to be tracked via their webcam by an advertiser? This runs the risk of becoming too invasive. The other issue with facial recognition is that it only gives an initial impression – it’s a partial picture that must be taken with the whole to get an accurate understanding of the customer’s emotional intent.

Wearables and Biometric Data: Watches, bracelets and other tracking devices that detect things like heart rate, and blood pressure – which all change according to our mood – are becoming increasingly attractive to advertisers. Soon, biometric data may be behind all our technologies.

Advertisers are eyeing the possibility of measuring blood alcohol levels and blood sugar. What could this information be used for in an emotional advertising context? Advertisers could deliver restaurant ads when blood sugar is low and a craving hits, or send you an ad suggesting a brand of beer after detecting you had a drink. This can be taken one step further when combined with location data; a food ad would be served for a nearby restaurant when the device detected hunger or that a certain span of time without eating had passed.

Biometric data was used at Wimbledon when Jaguar teamed up with Mindshare to capture spectator’s emotions. The data was collected through cuffs and atmospheric sensors to track global sentiment on Facebook, then shared via social media. This data could be used to target the crowd with ads that align with the emotional state being fed through the sensors.

Video and Voice: Brands that focused on consumers who had the greatest likelihood of emotional engagement saw the most uplift in conversion and purchase intent. With the recent explosion of video advertising, marketers are keen to tap into emotional targeting across this new channel. New Balance targeted viewers in Japan with technology that determined which users were most likely to engage with their videos. The brand saw a 113% increase in campaign completion.  Video has a high rate of engagement, if brands and advertisers better understood, and implemented emotional data from video views, they would see significant increases in conversions.

Voice Search has also recently surged in popularity and advertisers have discovered that due to the greater length, and casual nature of voice search queries, it could often indicate the emotion behind the request. As voice search becomes more adept at picking up on natural speech, the emotional intent will become clearer, enabling advertisers to serve ads/suggest items based on these emotional cues. This platform is still in its infancy so we won’t be seeing anything revolutionary with voice search and emotional targeting for a while.

Emotional targeting has not yet reached its full potential, but it has experienced a resurgence as newer, better technology has evolved to make it one of the most lucrative methods for converting browsers into buyers. Knowing your customer emotionally will always be more lucrative than guess work marketing. Purchases are often made after price comparison, and careful consideration, but marketers can go one step further by building brand loyalties and increasing conversions by developing a strong emotional connection.