In this new digital normal, when everyone has access to the same machine learning and AI tools, the brands that win will do so through creative diversification. How? By using a variety of formats and assets to reach and engage with customers. You’ll have to think differently about your creative approach, and try tactics that others aren’t using. Fortunately, there are many options available, as you look to stay authentic to your brand and uniquely convey your value propositions to reach new audiences.
To break through, the most successful brands adopt an agile test-and-learn mentality, using a combination of art and science to determine which formats resonate best with their customers. In fact, a Facebook-commissioned meta-analysis study found that adopting a testing and learning process to creative resulted in a 15% lower cost-per-ad recall and a 26% lower cost per action.1
The following five techniques and accompanying examples describe brands that thought differently about their creative and tested new platforms and possibilities:
- Test new formats. The marketing team at the lingerie brand Adore Me explored a new way to reach customers by running video ads on Instagram and Facebook that opened into a full-screen, immersive Facebook Instant Experience. With a single ad, Adore Me’s customers could watch engaging videos and photos and swipe through product carousels to explore the brand’s products. During a campaign that ran March 23-April 15, 2021, Adore Me’s ads drove a 25% increase in opt-ins to its subscription plan and improved the brand’s overall performance compared with its business-as-usual ads. And the Adore Me team could glean insights about customers’ preferences, allowing them to continue to personalize ad content to these audiences. In this case, the new creative formats reduced customer friction by eliminating unnecessary clicks and limiting new page loads.
- Test new personalities, tones and assets. For Pura Vida, showcasing video ads that focused more on the brand and storytelling over individual products wasn’t a typical strategy. But when the brand teamed up with new partner “Shark Week” to create a video ad showing a different side of the brand, Pura Vida was able to balance eye-catching lifestyle and product close-up photography with exciting footage of sharks in their natural environments. The ad resulted in the brand’s top performing direct-response campaign.
- Involve both micro and macro influencers. The custom hair-care disruptor Prose sought to understand whether leveraging content produced by macro influencers—defined as social media content creators who draw more than a million followers—drives greater ROI and reach than leveraging content from micro influencers, who have fewer than 500,000 followers. To find out, the team tested video ads on Facebook featuring macro influencers’ content, content from micro influencers and content featuring a combination of the two. The team saw a 19% lower cost per purchase using the combination approach, showing that testing a diversity of approaches can pay off. It’s important to note that we’re still very much in the early stages of the influencer/creator economy, but make no mistake: They drive efficient purchases and incremental reach to new audiences.
- Harness machine learning to optimize creative. The wine company McBride Sisters Collection had largely relied on in-store sales before the COVID-19 pandemic. But after stay-at-home orders required the company to pivot to an online strategy, the team used automatic placements to determine which ad placements performed best at the lowest cost across Facebook apps and services. Leveraging machine learning technology allowed the brand team to customize creative messaging and distribute budget to the highest-performing assets in real time. As a result, the team saw a 58% lift in purchases, a 60% lift in requests to find their store location and a two-times lift in ad recall.
- Partner with creative experts. You can partner with creative agencies and teams with specialized skills in certain platforms to help you take your creative in new directions. For example, the marketing team at the Black women-owned e-commerce retailer Be Bougie partnered with Vimeo, a Facebook Business Partner, as the company pivoted from static ads to optimized video creative. The partnership produced a 15.7-point lift in ad recall.
These disruptive brands are all standout examples of how testing different creative approaches and formats can pay off big as customer behaviors and expectations shift in digital commerce. With customers discovering new brands and products at an unprecedented rate, creative is now the single best performance lever at your disposal to reach and engage with people so that they’ll remember you and keep returning to your brand’s offerings again and again.
1. Facebook internal data, 163 campaigns, December 2019