Addressable Marketing 101: An Intro to Smart Communications

Addressable marketing is a buzz term but don’t brush it off. It’s something that every marketer should be putting greater emphasis on, particularly in the current environment in which many brands are physically cut off from their customers.

Chief Brand & Experience Officer

If you already know what it is, you may believe that it’s out of reach based on your access to actionable customer data, or that it’s just not an effective or practical means to build your brand.

Either way, I want to change your mind. Stories are told through screens. TV is no more a source of inspiration or truth than a phone or laptop. There’s no longer a hierarchy of importance. Brand building needs to happen all the time, at every touch point, and an addressable approach helps ensure that your efforts are both relevant and resonant.

Let’s back up. What is addressable marketing? The simplest and clearest definition is marketing tailored and targeted to specific audiences. It’s about as direct a line to the customer as you can get. Traditionally, it’s been referred to as customer relationship management, or CRM, but that puts it in a box. Addressable isn’t just email or direct mail. It’s coordinated communications across social, podcasts, OOH, events, TV and radio, mobile app, website, and search. It’s paid media, not just owned.

But it isn’t just about channels. It’s a philosophy that puts the audience at the center of the story and ensures that they get the right message at the right place and the right time. It’s built around customer journeys, not one-offs. When it’s done well, there’s no friction or dead ends. The customer experience is seamless. In short, it’s a smarter and more human way to communicate with customers. It’s how modern brands such as Netflix, Casper, Away Travel, MVMT, Glossier, and many others reached scale. Below are some basic but important things to consider when setting up your program.

Get to know your customers: Addressable is all about making your customers feel known and valued. To be successful, you need an understanding of their needs, habits, and actual behaviors. It starts through email capture. Email is the gateway to smart communications and can unlock a lot of insights. Set up simple surveys but don’t stop there. Use a combination of first-party data and consumer research to understand the behavioral, demographic and geographic nuances within your customer base. Find out how much they already know about you. Do you need to introduce them to the brand, deepen their understanding, or give them a hard-working CTA? Who or what do you need to position against? Who is winning? What offers or messages drive them to action? From there, you can focus your messaging and create distinct audiences to tailor your marketing.

Know who you are: Addressable doesn’t mean forgetting the fundamentals. Words and emotion still matter. You still need a clear, exciting, and differentiated mission and brand positioning. It’s your foundation. The difference is that you need to consider audience needs from the start. Your positioning should come out of a data-driven understanding of your customer, not just qualitative research. Also, don’t just equate great advertising with a great tagline. Taglines aren’t dead. There’s still a role for them, but you should be thinking about your brand as a dynamic system designed to deliver a range of relevant content, as opposed to a single idea. It’s not enough to be different. There’s too much noise. You need to be contextual and relevant. A good addressable brand strategy both moves and connects with people on their terms.

Be where they are: Once you have an understanding of your audiences, and a strong and clear brand positioning, it’s important to find them in the most relevant channels. Create comprehensive customer journeys that reach your audiences, and people like them, where they most frequently go. Account for those nuances between audience groups and adjust your journeys as needed for each group. Most brands have data challenges, and it can be particularly difficult to develop acquisition-focused customer journeys and content for unknown customers. If this is a challenge for you, consider using a data platform to help you identify your customers through retail and transaction data. They can help you define your unknown audiences and create acquisition journeys that convert.

Adopt a modular approach to creative: A smart addressable program is a modular one. Why? Because one-off executions don’t easily scale when you’re targeting audience groups with different and varied messaging needs. One-offs don’t need to go away completely. They work for mass promotions and creating brand visibility, but to reach scale and create the semblance of personalization, you need to be able to quickly flow new content and messages into your emails and digital ads. Most brand people worry about creative quality suffering, but it doesn’t have to. If you start the design process with the intent to create a templated system, it’s relatively easy to make something look awesome and seamless. The key is to work with creative teams who both understand brand storytelling and systematic design. Creative success isn’t just about pithy copy and great design.

Get your messages and offers right: Don’t use just addressable communications as a dumping ground for offers and discounts absent of brand messaging. Your channels will lose value over time, cheapen your brand, and lower your margins. Every message you send should say something about you. It should tell a story. If you’re only using email, direct, and display for discounts, you might as well go straight to 80% off now, because that’s where you’re going to end up. That said, the “offer” does matter. Getting it right comes back to knowing how your audiences buy, what motivates them and where they consume content. This will allow you to create messaging strategies that truly resonate.

Test. Learn. Iterate: This is often talked about but seldom executed. In addressable marketing, it’s core to the process and mission critical for success. The goal is to quickly get to a place where subjectivity can be removed from as much of your decisioning as possible. Lead with vision but let data show you the way. Even if mass communications play a big part in your marketing, you need to set up A/B tests to refine your channel and messaging strategy, and make sure you regularly reassess your approach based on performance data. There’s never a shortage of opinions in marketing. The beauty of addressable is that it’s data-driven. The best programs are creative and have distinct branding and design, but they are built on what works—the indisputable facts. Prioritize testing and learning, and constantly iterate.