Marketing has many goals: to build creative, inspiring work that burrows its way into the minds and memories of consumers; to generate sales; to increase awareness of a company or product … the list goes on and on. But without zeroing in on your target audience, you can end up missing your goals in spectacular fashion. Think consumers are just mindlessly buying products? Think again. According to, customers are 80% more likely to give their business to brands that offer personalized, custom marketing interactions. 

One of the biggest applications of data analytics in the marketing world is to define the demographics, behaviors, and interests of consumers, giving marketers a lens into who they’re targeting. After all, if you don’t know who you’re marketing to, what do you really know? Ignoring target audiences isn’t just detrimental to your campaigns — it’s detrimental to your business: $37 billion is wasted each year on ads that fail to reach target audiences. 

Marketing campaigns that miss the mark

The marketer’s mantra could be: “Know your audience. Know your audience. Know your audience.“

To demonstrate just how crucial it is to use data analytics to focus on target audiences, let’s look at some missteps of modern digital marketing and consider how these campaigns could have been improved with a little more insight and an audience check. 

The right data is the key to a successful growth marketing program.

Learn how

“Dumb Ways to Die” kills it — with the wrong demographic

This memorable campaign was developed for Melbourne Metro Trains to spread awareness about rail safety and decrease accidents at level crossings and station platforms. The campaign’s target audience was defined as young adults ages 18-29. The video went viral, and with more than 200 million views to date, it has become a legendary campaign that earned nominations, awards, and long-term recognition for the agency that created it. But did it actually work? 

According to Possible, a global creative marketing and advertising agency, it didn’t. Sure, the ad was wildly popular, launching programs for elementary school-aged children, producing holiday spinoffs with even more dumb ways to die, and raising awareness about safety in some ways. However, the millions of views and kids who fell in love with the ad didn’t make up for the fact that accidents actually increased in the months after the ad was released. It underperformed wildly with its target demo: 46% of 18-29-year-olds never saw it.

The colorful, cute blobs dancing and singing while being impaled or poisoned reached an audience (young children and parents), however they missed the target audience, the people actually impacted most by accidents and deaths on rail systems. 

Could data analytics have helped? Absolutely. Had marketers used their data to dive further into their target audience’s behaviors, likes, dislikes, and how they perceive ads and interact online, they could have discovered that while their ad idea was overall brilliant, the audience they intended to reach would have responded better to a campaign that went in a different direction. (Now, good luck trying to get the jingle out of your head.)

Tip: Measure the metrics that matter

Dumb Ways to Die generated hundreds of millions of views and was critically renowned — all major successes for the agency. But when we peel back the intention of the ad, those vanity metrics don’t matter, because in the end, the ad didn’t raise awareness within the defined target audience, and it didn’t prevent accidents within the time frame that was scoped. When it comes to marketing, don’t be blinded by the glisten of views, likes, and comments. These can help raise awareness, but if your goal extends beyond that, make sure you measure — and deliver on — the KPIs that matter. 

Bunny ears campaign flops

Internet holidays are expansive, ever-growing celebrations of everything from pizza to pet adoption to margaritas. Whereas traditional holidays are filled with family, friends, and food, internet holidays are filled with hashtags, comments, and likes. While many of these holidays generate major brand awareness for companies with correlating services or products (i.e., Pizza Hut and Domino’s dominate #NationalPizzaDay), brands can just as easily strike out with these faux holidays — like Nesquik’s National Bunny Ears Day. 

The idea from Nestle was simple: create a holiday, National Bunny Ears Day, and launch an app that imposed chocolate bunny ears over users’ photos to celebrate. Nesquik was ready to go with a hashtag, a functioning app, and even celebrity endorsements (Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis) — and then, crickets. The “holiday” generated almost no buzz, there was barely any participation, and it was forgotten before it began. The problem wasn’t the general idea, it was that there wasn’t an audience defined for it. 

If data had been properly collected, analyzed, and used to conduct a deep dive of Nesquik’s target audience, their online and mobile habits, how they interacted previously with the brand, and their demographics, the faux holiday could have survived, maybe even thrived (or else have been avoided altogether, if it looked like a loser). 

Perhaps Nesquick’s demographic wasn’t super into apps or filters or just couldn’t be bothered to find the app, download it, add the filter to a picture, and post it for friends to see, all in the name of something as arbitrary as chocolate milk. It’s also entirely possible that the world just didn’t need yet another internet holiday and so people chose to skip this one. Whatever the reasons were, it was clear that there was a disconnect between Nesquik’s vision and their audience—a gap the data could have helped them fill in. 

Tip: Use data to foster creativity

Nesquik’s idea was solid; however, the topic didn’t resonate with consumers. If a great idea comes before a data dive, check your information before executing to ensure your idea truly has the potential to be as impactful as you anticipate. Using data first is one of the best ways to take a detailed look at your audience and come up with ideas that will actually reach them. Approaching campaigns data first can increase your creative effectiveness. 

Peloton holiday campaign gets gift-giving wrong

Peloton’s 2019 holiday ad is a cautionary tale about audience, perspective, and doing a double (maybe even triple) check on the angle of your ad. In the midst of the holiday season, the “it” fitness company launched an ad where its classic exercise bike was given as a gift by a husband to his wife. Chaos ensued. 

Whether or not the ad’s narrative was supposed to be taken as a man telling a woman she needed to lose weight, that’s what happened. In an era where body positivity and female empowerment have replaced dangerous diet fads and shaming, a large portion of viewers were turned off and tuned out. 

According to a study by the Nicollet Melrose Center of St. Louis, 50% of Americans are unhappy with their weight, and 70% of women who are a healthy weight want to be thinner, highlighting that the topics of weight, health, and body image are difficult to navigate. The repercussions didn’t permanently affect the brand (Peloton is still one of the most successful fitness companies on earth), but the backlash did cause some serious damage to its stock price: Before the ad campaign, Peloton was valued at $9.39 billion. Within the first day of the ad being released, stock value dropped 9% and by an additional 6% the following day (for a total loss of value of $1.5 billion). 

Tip: Combine knowledge of social trends with data-powered insights

It’s not that the marketers who developed this campaign didn’t have data to help them make decisions. However, they may not have been looking at the right data.  The body positivity trend and movement started around 2012 and has led to a global change in societal views and standards. There’s an unbelievable amount of data that can be collected to help determine opinions and standpoints on this subject, data that can help ensure marketing efforts don’t unintentionally create an offensive campaign. 

Peloton might not have meant to make people who are struggling with body issues feel bad about themselves or suggest that husbands should control the way their wives look, but it came off that way. Using data to understand societal viewpoints, their scale, and their overlap on your target audience can help savvy marketers avoid these missteps. 

Make all marketing data-powered marketing

Know your audience. How? Through data. Data is the wide-angle lens that allows you to see far past superficialities and into what truly matters to the people who support your brand. Without it, you may end up on a list like this. 

Data does more than provide you with insights on how your company is doing. It also lends a deeper understanding into who your audience is, what they care about, and their behaviors, likes, and dislikes. Using data to better understand them is the key to any successful — truly successfulmarketing campaign. Without it, you’re assuming, and you know what they say about people who make assumptions…

Before falling in love with a campaign idea, check your data first. It’s the most effective way to create innovative, compelling campaigns that are positioned to make an impact with the people who matter most to your brand. 

The right data is the key to a successful growth marketing program.

Learn how

Madie Szrom is a Content Writer at Sisense. She has more than 10 years of experience in digital marketing, working with the City of Indianapolis, Riley Children’s Hospital, Viable Insights, and others. She’s been published in Shore Magazine, the Indy Star, and Time Out Chicago. Her long-term literary goal is to write a book of essays and be published in The New York Times.

Tags: |