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Just because a company has seemingly unlimited funds, resources, and employees at their disposal, doesn’t mean that they always know how to properly utilize them. And when it comes to audience engagement, many of even the biggest companies have little to no idea on how to go about it, instead implementing tactics that nearly everyone else has done before them.

What these companies don’t realize, however, is that there are other, more effective, more efficient, ways of reaching their target audiences. And that’s why Elkanah Carnell Reed (Founder & CEO, Eleven Digital Inc.) and Malik Reid (COO, Eleven Digital, Inc.) from Eleven Digital, Inc. (and Graduate of the Silicon Valley Founder Institute) have written this blog post about what major brands are doing wrong to engage their audiences - and what they should do about it.


You major brands just don’t get it, do you?

Right now, you throw away millions of dollars and spend months on campaigns that you think will reach your target audience, scratch your hands when it doesn’t pay off and come up with a new approach, and then go through the whole process again.

Spend. Waste. Drawing board. Repeat.


But what you guys fail to understand is that your real target audience has a set of interests, habits, values, and other attributes that necessary for you to understand if you want to build trust with them.

This has been going on for way too long, but I think we’ve figured out exactly what you guys are doing wrong, and what you can do to fix that.

There is a HUGE Lack of Data-Driven Decisions within this Space

Most major brands rely on only a small amount of data to target their audiences, and the little data they do employ in their marketing campaigns generally ranges from barely insightful to completely useless.

Come on, do you really think that using only age, gender, and location as your only targeting parameters is going to boost your brand’s awareness?

If you’re a marketer and you said “yes” to that question, you should be fired.

To prove our point, when we reach out to influencer agencies, platforms, and managers, we tell them that we sell pet food and that we’re specifically looking for people who regularly purchase dog food. Their responses are, almost always, along the lines of, “well, this channel posts videos and pics of cute puppies in tuxedos, so this audience must be interested in your brand.”

Because of the major flaws in this logic, we always follow up with something like, “Ok, but how many of them are pet owners?”

As you might expect, we generally don’t get any response to this type of question.

If you want to know exactly who your audience is and how you engage them, you have to be as specific as possible, which means you have acquire as much about your audience as possible.

For example, if you are looking for publishers who have high concentrations of audiences that do lots of online clothes shopping, the usual “age, gender, and location” parameters aren’t going to cut it. Here are some additional parameters you should include:

  • People who purchased clothing in the last month

  • People who purchased clothing in the last six months

  • People who research clothing online

  • People who prefer purchasing clothing online rather than in stores

So, if you had all of this data, there are several approaches you can then take. Maybe you find a publisher that has more consumers who purchase online, and another that has more consumers who do their clothing research online. The former may seem more enticing to you because they’re the ones who make more online purchases, but it’s possible that the latter is your ideal target because they’re the ones who are more open to clothing suggestions and, therefore, more likely to be converted into long-term customers.

The more data you have, the more informed your decisions will be, and the more effective your campaigns will be.

Major Brands Still Think that Consumers Want to See Ads

Super Bowl commercials are still extremely popular, but other than this once-a-year event, what other occasions actually get people as excited about ads?

Go ahead, tell us.

Can’t think of any?

Yeah, that’s what we figured.

That’s because outside of the Super Bowl, most, if not all consumers, couldn’t care less about commercials.

But here’s the thing: most major brands still think that traditional advertisements still work, that there’s a demand for them. And that’s simply not true.

However, for the brands that are aware of this lack of interest in traditional advertising, this is a great opportunity to compete against larger, more established companies.

With the rise of online video content (dominated by YouTube), it’s clear that audiences are flocking away from the usual commercials, and rushing to experience uninterrupted, entertaining content. And while you may think that companies can still capture leads with video ads, think again: studies have shown that adblock adoption on desktop and laptop computers continues to grow on mobile and desktop devices around the world, which means that more and more audiences are tuning out the constant barrage of advertising on their favorite sites.

And another important data point is that 67% of users under the age of 35 consumes video-based entertainment online via Youtube as opposed to the dwindling 36% that are giving their attention to pay tv.

So what’s the most important conclusion can we draw from this?

It’s that companies should do away with merely making more ads, and should instead focus on closing the gap between advertising and entertainment. Because we’ve just established that attention is the biggest commodity companies should go after, companies’ advertising must move more towards being entertainment in order to better align with the desires of online video consumers.

It’s not just about clicks and shares (although those things are important, too), it’s about ensuring that your content can attract and maintain an audience's attention. Can you tell a story, write a song, or make a movie that doesn't just motivate, but enrapture and captivate? If the quality of your content fails to captivate your target audience, then you have failed as a marketer.

Not to beat on major brands too much (even though someone has to), but what they so often forget is that their marketing campaigns should be designed to increase loyalty and not just instant actions (“these deals won’t last!”, “limited time offer!”, etc.). Customers need more than what typical ads can offer.

Remember, entertainment gets consumed, and ads get blocked. It’s just that simple.

If you want to launch a company that people love, then apply to the Silicon Valley Founder Institute today!

What Brands Need to Focus on is Culture, Community, Content, Creators and Causes

Even when a company has gathered all of the relevant data related to their target audience, they still often fail to engage with them by neglecting to organize that information in a clear plan for success.

To better reach and engage their audiences, companies need to focus on five specific pivot points: culture, community, content, creators, and causes. Unfortunately, these are areas that far too many companies ignore when trying to engage their target audience.

Below is a summary of how we at Eleven use our 5 C’s Methodology to enable brands to pivot into target communities with their core values and fan-bases) intact:


Because there are so many cultures, subcultures, countercultures, intercultures, etc., culture is our recommended starting point. Finding intersectionality between them is what brands should do first, as it allows them to connect the dots and land on their target audience every time. Create a complete profile of your core consumers and their online media consumption habits to better understand how they interact with media.


Once you’ve identified the cultural intersections of your audience, you must then segment them into communities of shared interests and other attributes. What are their interests? Food? Music? Fashion? Where are they consuming content? Youtube? Snapchat? Instagram? Once you’ve defined your audience,everything that demographic is interested in will be factored into your channel selections.


So you’ve defined who your audience is, now what?

You give them the content they want.

The key here is to find the common shared interest between existing and potential consumers, and introduce the brand where they overlap with their choice of entertainment. This means that the content you produce should be not only focused on their interests, but compelling enough to keep them coming back for more.


After you’ve found the right medium or channel to reach your target audience, you now must find the right creators to develop the content that matches your audience’s interests. It’s important that the creators you hire for this create content as they normally would, but find a way to insert the brand into their content in a way that’s both relevant and creative. Ideally, a creator’s work should pair up perfectly with the vision of the brand itself.


Too many brands focus too much on what they get in return for investing in the content their audiences consume without thinking about what else they can do for the communities they reach out to. Taking a stand on a certain issue in society is a great way to establish trust with your audience, and is something more companies should consider.

Sure, doing so requires more time, effort, and money, but at least you’ll be able to sleep at night knowing that you’re making the world a better place.

Bottom Line

Look, media is constantly changing, and so is the way we consume it, which will always pose a dynamic set of challenges for companies. But when it comes to the way we reach out to and engage with our audiences, the one thing that should never change is the need for always keeping abreast of what they want and expect from their favorite brands.

Remember, data doesn’t lie.

Data is your friend.

So get out there and reach the right audience, with the right message, at the right time.

If your company needs a partner that can close the gap between advertising and entertainment, check out what Eleven can do for you. And, if you are interested in talking to Elkanah Carnell Reed (Founder & CEO, Eleven Digital Inc.), email him directly at er@elevenapp.io

Company Bio

Eleven Digital, Inc. is on a mission to bring branded entertainment to the forefront of advertising and popular entertainment. We build “Ad-free Ad-tech” for advertisers and publishers deployed in private exchanges. Our technology is complete with market research, audience measurement, and channel planning tools to treat branded entertainment like a traditional ad unit.

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