Why Disruptive Brands Take a Holistic Approach to Media Activation

Breaking into the Fortune 500 is more fluid than ever before. Legacy brands can’t rest on their laurels, thanks to a new class of challenger brands. Challengers are digital-first institutions that test frequently, gather insights rapidly, and apply these insights to drive and measure results in real-time. They also take a holistic approach to media activation.

Data should inform every step of your activation, and challengers place a huge emphasis on measurability. The following steps ensure that brands are able to create an invaluable feedback loop and guaranteed media efficiency:  

  1. Whether driving online sales or increasing brand favorability, challenger brands identify what questions about their business (i.e. creative elements or top-performing audiences) or learning agenda they would like to answer before running paid media. Marketers need lead time to implement tools like conversion pixels or Brand Effect measurement, ensuring the answers to those questions are based on the best measurement data and real business results.

  2. Once they have outlined a goal, they use data, such as that extracted from audience-profiling techniques, to inform their initial targeting.

  3. They then use historical performance data to identify the platforms and placements best-suited for their campaign objective, as well as how to best allocate budgets for each channel (i.e. what percentage of spend will they use to test Pinterest versus Instagram).

  4. They also use historical data and best practices to inform creative strategy (i.e. a brand investing in family-oriented imagery due to success of past campaigns).

  5. But more importantly, disruptors use real-time conversion data to optimize performance as the campaign unfolds. They adjust their targeting, creative, platform budgets, placements (desktop versus mobile ads) based on the results of their campaign. For example, if most people are converting off carousel ads on Twitter, a challenger brand will take that insight to heart and push more dollars to this format versus another.


SocialCode’s Audience Intelligence Platform can enable these people-based insights by combining data across touchpoints to form a complete view of a brand’s customers, powering smarter, faster marketing and media activation. The result is a superior return on investment along with transformational business insights. Choosing the right target audience has the greatest impact on marketing performance – so we built a marketing solution that puts individual audience data at its core. Through Audience Intelligence, you get a deep understanding of customers that completely integrates into analytics, planning, buying, and measurement – all with ID-level precision. You’ll move faster, test more and improve performance.

We worked with a prominent financial services brand that exemplifies the tenets of an effective challenger brand. The brand integrated its first-party data with SocialCode’s audience-profiling technology and found that its current customers were more likely to be Gen Xers making more than $50,000 a year and based in the East Coast, among other qualities. Based on this analysis, SocialCode’s ad team eliminated people who made less than $50,000 and were younger than 40 from their targeting bucket across channels. As a result of these audience optimizations, the brand saw 40% more efficient credit card enrollments. Additionally, we analyzed the historical performance of past campaigns and saw that product-focused ads drove 1.2x more efficiency than lifestyle images, while carousel ads drove a 3x higher click-through rate than other placements. As a result, the brand’s creative agency took the recommendation to heart and came back with more product-centric variations of carousel ads.

Marketers should use the trove of audience and creative insights yielded during digital ad campaigns to identify new opportunities and inform overall brand strategy on all channels, from social to linear TV. Let’s say you run a small campaign on Facebook driving people to your online store. You can then use audience-profiling technology to retrieve key insights about people who bought things from your store during this campaign. SocialCode’s proprietary audience-profiling technology shows brands what characteristics your customers “over-index on” compared to the general Facebook population. If people who converted off your Facebook ads were more likely to be young, athletic females, then perhaps your brand will see success sponsoring the WNBA or featuring Lindsey Vonn in their next TV campaign.

Another strategic way challengers use audience insights is to identify geographical opportunities. Suppose your analysis of your CRM list revealed that your highest value customers are more likely to be bilingual. You could then use the aforementioned lookalike targeting feature to find lookalikes of your customers in emerging markets and determine where you see the highest volume of purchases at the most efficient cost. This could then better inform your brand’s decision to start offering international shipping. Some e-commerce challengers use audience insights to decide whether they should invest in a brick-and-mortar location, based on the concentration of their highest value customers.

Challengers learn from every aspect of social campaigns. SocialCode found that customers drop off during checkout processes that take too long. Based on this insight, several of SocialCode’s clients have improved their website conversion flow, reducing the number of landing pages and simplifying checkout.

To learn more about the tenets of disruptive digital advertisers, check out our full guide here.