Digital Media Strategies And When To Use Them

Like a lot of marketers, a portion of your budget is dedicated to digital marketing. In fact, marketers are now spending more than half (54.2%) of their budget on digital ads. Which makes sense considering that, when done correctly, digital media enables you to reach and engage with your target audience in more targeted, personalized and measurable ways than any other media. ​

Although creating a successful digital media program is not hard, it does require strategy. And it is a strategy that many marketers find hard to put together. According to SmartInsights, almost half of marketers using digital media have no defined strategy.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss why having a digital media strategy is so important to the success of your campaigns, and the two primary strategies you can choose — direct response or brand awareness.

Why You Need A Digital Media Strategy

At its most basic level, a digital media strategy incorporates digital channels into a company’s marketing and communication efforts. It also provides a single comprehensive plan that is designed to align online efforts with business objectives.

Having a digital media strategy is important because the world of digital marketing is big and opportunities are increasing by the day. The number of people who use electronic devices continues to increase. According to a September 2019 study, American adults spend almost 7 hours a day with digital media. That breaks down to 2.5 hours using the mobile Internet and more than 4 hours on a laptop, desktop or tablet every day. But it’s like Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” And in the ever-growing world of digital marketing, that could be almost anywhere.

The first step in creating a digital strategy is to understand your objectives. This is key, as an understanding of your objectives will dictate the type of digital media program you run: direct response or brand awareness. Understanding objectives gives your team the clarity and direction they need to allocate resources, make optimizations that improve KPIs, and tie your strategy back to specific business objectives. Not to mention, it also keeps your budget from being blown out of the water.

Direct Response Strategy

There are two different ways to target your audience in a direct response strategy: the shotgun approach and slow and steady. Understanding your objectives, and which of the direct response strategies support them, is key to successful digital marketing. Otherwise, you will set yourself up for failure before you even begin.


In the shotgun approach, you target a very broad audience. This is best for products or services that have a broad application, limited timeframe for purchase, and do not require a lot of thought before making the purchase. Plumbing is a great example of a service that would benefit from the shotgun approach.

Although you won’t get repeated impressions that familiarize customers with the brand or build trust, you won’t need it with this type of product or service. Remember: the target audience for these companies has a problem and is looking for an immediate solution. By targeting a broad audience with a low frequency message, you are increasing your chances of hitting the right person at the right time, and all within a manageable budget. 

Slow & Steady

The second way to target your audience takes a slow and steady approach where you consistently target the same audience over an extended period of time. This is best for products or services that target a constrained audience that require either a longer timeframe for purchase or a higher level of trust and/or thought before making the purchase. A car dealership is a great example of a business or service that would benefit from the slow and steady approach.

Unlike the shotgun approach, our goal here is to increase familiarity with the brand and build trust over time. Since this audience is thinking about the purchase long before they make it, it is crucial that they can see the offer multiple times over an extended period of time. Understanding their customer journey, which includes knowledge of the different journey states and how long it takes them to make a purchase, is very helpful in creating an effective digital strategy using this approach.

Broad Audience… And High Frequency?

While it is possible to target a broad audience with high frequency messaging, the budget required to do so would be astronomical. And, if you are like most marketers, you are likely struggling to make your budget support your objectives. In this case, you have two options.

The first is to follow a more traditional media flighting model. This would allow you to target a broad audience with a high frequency and stay within budget by delivering ads for a week or two, pausing them for a few weeks, and then turning them back on for another couple of weeks. This allows you to hit the frequency needed for the message to be absorbed while also staying within budget. We do not recommend this option, however, as it is not consistent and leaves substantial gaps in messaging.

Instead, we recommend artificially constraining the audience. This means doing your best to identify the closest-match audience to your target persona or market segment and then further shrinking it down by restricting it to a narrower demographic, such as a limited age range, geography, gender, etc. This method not only allows you to deliver your message at the frequency needed for your audience to remember and understand your message but also provides opportunities to create messaging that targets this specific audience. Doing so allows you to take advantage of one of the benefits of digital marketing that traditional advertising cannot do: deliver a highly personalized message to the right person.

Brand Awareness Strategy

A brand awareness strategy is focused on getting your target audience to know, like and trust your brand. To do this, you must make sure that your brand ads hit the right audience and do so at such a frequency that they begin to build an affinity with your brand.

The metric you will use to gauge the effectiveness of your program is frequency, but not just any frequency, viewable frequency. Remember, the goal of your program is not to drive conversions, it is to increase awareness for your brand.  

Every program and creative is different, but we have found that when building awareness, a minimum viewable frequency of ten times per month is a good starting point. If you are trying to grow an audience, then you will want your viewable frequency to be closer to 20-30 times per month. In the event that you are also running direct response ads, you will want to make sure that you have accounted for both ad types when calculating your frequency.

To pull back on budget, you should focus on maintaining a balance between constraining your audience and limiting frequency. Again, your goal is to build awareness. If your audience is only presented with your ad 2-5 times per week, then you are likely not building awareness of your brand.

Make A Plan, But Don’t Stick With It

By documenting your strategy you are providing a clear and defined path that aligns with your overall business objectives. This alone provides clarity and direction for your team, making it easier to allocate resources to efforts that best support your business goals and objectives. Having a documented digital strategy that is linked to business objectives makes the document measurable and actionable, allowing you to tie your performance to KPIs and track them over time. 

Keep in mind that digital marketing continues to evolve. To be successful, you must evolve with it. While your objectives dictate your strategy, the tactics you outlined to support that strategy were your best guess for achieving those objectives… when you created the plan. Things change, especially so in the digital world, and you must adapt to meet the needs of your audience. Taking advantage of new channels and creative opportunities will lead to increases in performance.

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