Targeting – Reaching customers with the right content

Targeting vs. Branding

Reach the right target group with targetingThe offers tend to be better and better tailored to the customer. But is that enough in the long run?

The personalization of advertising – aka targeting – has become indispensable, especially in online marketing. Today’s targeting possibilities go far beyond a personal salutation. This enables us to address potential customers even better. But targeting must not be seen as a panacea, since measures such as branding are still indispensable.

What is Targeting?

Targeting is personalized advertising. Cookies, browser and device identification are used to record and analyze user behavior. From this it can be deduced which needs and interests the user has. This is the prerequisite for offering content that meets respective user’s needs.

What types of targeting are there?

Content targeting
The advertisement is only displayed on websites with content that mention the product. If someone is interested in dogs, the ad will be displayed on pages that contain the term dog.

Behavioral targeting
Behavioral targeting records which pages have been visited by the user. The content are then played out according to the user’s surfing behaviour, e.g. also in newsletters.

Geotargeting is mainly used for mobile applications. Here, the user is shown advertisements of shops and facilities located in the immediate vicinity of his location.

Retargeting is aimed at abandoned cart users. This means that a user wanted to buy the displayed products before and had already placed them in the shopping basket. Eventually the final click never happened and the the purchase process got canceled. The prospective customer is addressed again specifically with the products.

Semantic targeting
In contrast to content targeting, semantic targeting also displays the ad on pages that contain related terms. For example, the advertisement would not only appear on pages containing the term dog, but also on pages with pet food and a veterinarian.

Social media targeting
With social media targeting, the user is shown a previously selected product or service in the timeline of the respective platform.

Advantages of targeting

  • Advertising is tailored to the individual wishes and needs of the recipient
  • The recipient receives less uninteresting ads
  • Strengthening brand loyalty
  • Offers aren’t as easily forogotten
  • The targeted advertisements lead to a higher conversion rate and thus to higher sales
  • Lower costs due to less wastage

Disadvantages of targeting

  • Regular maintenance and adaptation of content takes time
  • Data protection must be taken into account
  • Some internet users use technical solutions to block tracking
  • Advertising can also be displayed incorrectly, e.g. if it is about gifts: If a user who has no child himself is looking for children’s items because friends have just become parents, then products from this area are no longer relevant for the user after the purchase, but are still displayed.
  • There is a certain scepticism towards personalized advertising. Due to fear of data abuse, targeting is rejected by many users.

The interaction of branding and targeting


Not only targeting matters, branding is just as important in oder to enable targeting. Both must complement each other. In order to be able to work with targeting, there should already be a branding strategy. In order to make a product desired, it needs a certain value. Said value is increased the higher the awareness becomes. First of all, a brand value has to be built up and this happens on a broad scale.

Creating values and desires with branding

If a brand is to be strengthened and built up, purely targeted advertising is not really helpful. Since the goal of branding is to make the brand known and – in the best case – to develop a desire and a certain status with it. Take, for example, the TV commercials of the big premium car manufacturers: Of course, most viewers cannot afford such a car, but the mere fact that the ad awakens a desire in many recipients increases the brand’s reputation and thus also its ideal value. An owner of these cars buys a certain status and envy factor.

This applies not only to luxury products, but also to everyday brand products. For example, care products can suggest that my body is worth using them. In case of food, it can also be transferred to the personal environment: My guests value the fact that I buy the expensive and supposedly better branded products. In order to make the user/owner receive said appreciation, a high brand awareness is unavoidable.

When talking about values in branding, it is also important to note that there are two values: One is the value that a company wants to represent and the other is the value that a (potential) customer sees in you. Ideally, these two values are the same. But often the self-perception is different from the one that is communicated to the outside world. Examples of this can often be found in recruiting, where dusty groups or long-established companies want to sell themselves as hip with a start-up mentality. Of course, this is not very authentic and therefore usually not successful.

Branding and targeting complement each other

In order for targeting to work, advertising measures based on the scattergun approach are also needed in order to build up the most sustainable branding possible. However, this does not mean that a company has to invest as much energy in branding as it does in targeting. This depends on various factors, such as the budget available, the type of product and the level of awareness. If targeted marketing is to be pursued, it must first be ensured that the necessary data is also available. If no data is available yet, there is no way around the scattergun until you can switch to personalized targeting.

In order to find the right distribution for your company’s budget, you can also orientate yourself on a few scenarios.

Product category Explanation Need for targeting Need for undirected ads
FMCG, mass-produced products often low price, brand rather secondary
Premium products mostly expensive, exclusive, strongly charged brand
Retailers, shops High priority of CRM for the business model
(Address existing customers, exploit CRM)
Missing existing customers/target group data fewer new products (see below) than brands with lack of data
(Data acquisition via analysis of non-targeted ads)
New product Budget sufficient available
(Goal: sales in core target group)

(basal brand building, chronologically at the beginning)
New product (strong) limited budget
(too expensive)
Sales-oriented product

Source: Sebastian Halm, iBusiness

Ain't no marketing without targeting

Targeting is unavoidable in the core target group

The situation is different for the core target group, where targeting is mandatory in order to increase the number of potential buyers. In this instance we have to stand out with our own offers from the mass of advertising messages with which each of us is confronted on a daily basis. By now, you should know your target group in order to be able to place content and products in a targeted manner. It does not have to be only about online advertisement, also print, TV or banner advertisement are conceivable for example. If, for example, your product is a hip trendy drink, you can use it to advertise in suitable bars with posters. If you want to address housewives, TV advertising in the morning and afternoon, for example, is suitable.

Targeting also works with a small budget

For start-ups and small businesses, such actions are often too costly. It is advisable (keeping the target group in mind) to rely on online channels. Test multiple targeting strageties or different ads to see which version performs best. If targeting does not work for some campaigns, adjust them according to the experience of the successful campaigns. If necessary, further develop these campaigns and specify the target group if possible.

Exploiting the potential of existing customers

Unfortunately, existing customers are often forgotten. Depending on the product, a lot of potential can be lost. With existing customers, you no longer need to invest any money in branding. You are all the more interesting for targeting. How often you address them depends above all on the product. For example, if someone has bought a car, you don’t need to address it for at least the next 1.5 years. This would rather lead to a negative branding because the customer is annoyed. After that the leasing contract might expire and the customer is receptive to your offer. With everyday products, such as clothing, things look a little different again. Here a customer buys another T-shirt, even if he bought two T-shirts three weeks ago.

Variety makes the difference

Everybody knows them, the ads that are literally following you. Most of the time it’s always the same content you’ve seen 20 times before and have been haunting you for weeks. Even if you bought the product a long time ago. That’s why campaigns should be varied. Anyone who at some point  looked at a pair of trousers does not want to see them for the next three months. Here it makes more sense to play out similar or matching products. In the best case you have even registered a purchase, whereby advertisements for this and probably also similar products become obsolete.

Don't be shy and expand from time to time

Even if you already have gathered  high quality user data by now, it makes sense to expand targeting every now and then in order to reach an extended variety of users. Especially with regard to branding, targeting should not be seen as a funnel that becomes slimer every day. In the worst case this can weaken the brand.


Targeting promises to appeal to the right target group for your product and is considered as a solution for all problems. Of course, targeting is important, especially if your own target group is well defined. But it’s not that simple. A realistic and applicatable solution is rather to be found in the category “it’s about the mix”. Authentic branding is just as important as individual and varied targeting in order to strengthen one’s own brand, but also to reach the target group.


Tip: Do you already know our Retargeting Package? This guarantees you a professional and targeted approach to your customers.


If you are interested in further online marketing topics, then have a look at the following blog posts:

Inseparable: E-Commerce and E-Mail Marketing

Emojis – more emotions for e-mail marketing

Creative Newsletter – Campaigns for every time of the year