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CPG Brands and Sequential Messaging: Ads So Personalized, You Won’t Need the Skip Button


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Whether it’s your iPhone’s signature *ding* following a text or the smell of your go-to perfume, everyone experiences habituation. To clarify, habituation is when repeated exposure to stimuli decreases your reaction to it. And truly, how many times have you felt that way about an ad? A once-interesting piece of content devolved into white noise. 

On the other hand, repeated exposure has its benefits. So how can advertisers ensure they’re repeating a message without risking ad fatigue? Sequential messaging is one great strategy. 

Sequential messaging refers to an ad campaign with a predetermined sequence of ad sets that  moves viewers through an intended “storyline.” Interestingly our most recent CTV and video benchmarks report revealed that Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) brands were employing every top dynamic video creative strategy…except sequential messaging. 

With so much potential for CPG brands to tell captivating stories through sequential messaging, we have to imagine those who start early will gain a competitive edge. To get started, here’s a bit of information about what sequential messaging is and how CPG brands can use it. 

Bona fide branding benefits 

Sequential messaging serves as a remarketing technique–ads can be shown to a user based on what they’ve already seen, where they are in the funnel, and/or the length of time since they visited a site. To accommodate the different stages, advertisers build ads for each distinct message. 

Sequential messaging is extremely effective for 2 fundamental reasons: 1. The timing aligns with a typical marketing cycle, working on a psychological level, and 2. It expands personalization capabilities. Sequential messaging works towards the marketing gold standard of right message, right time, and right frequency. 

Need proof that it works? A controlled study by Facebook of consumers who were exposed to sequential ads prior to a CTA, compared to those exposed to non-sequence ads, found an 87% increase in people visiting the brand’s landing page and a 56% increase in subscription rates.

Plus, targeting consumers with different ads based on their customer journey can boost your relevancy. Then, in turn, raise your relevancy score and click-through rate (CTR). Not to mention, you can continuously optimize the performance of your ad components–even while a campaign is live.

There are several types of sequential messaging to choose from, including: 

  • Display sequential messaging 
  • Video sequential messaging
  • Programmatic and Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) sequential messaging (using data points)
  • Or, multi-channel and multi-format campaigns 

Since there are multiple avenues for sequential messaging, CPG brands can take advantage of testing to uncover where it’s most fruitful. Additionally, now is a unique time for CPG brands. Following supply chain issues, customer loyalty is flailing. With sequential messaging, brands can go beyond the purchase to strengthen relationships. 

To contextualize, imagine there’s a pet food brand called DoggieO. Lately, they have been struggling to get their weight-loss line off the ground. To build more interest, DoggieO decides to try sequential messaging and highlight the masterbrand in ad 1. 

When ad 1 is ineffective, then DoggieO shows those users additional masterbrand ads brands to build affinity for the brand. For the users who did engage with masterbrand ads, a product message is then shown to bring the user closer to purchasing the weight-loss line. Thereby, DoggieO is able to target potential consumers for the weight-loss line while eliminating the risk of those interested in their general dog food line. 

Shaping your story structure 

Barring funnel considerations, and on a very high-level, your storyline can follow a structure like this:

Phase 1: Introduce the brand with memorable creatives. The CTA can urge action to learn more–focus on branding and/or masterbrand messaging at this point. 

Phase 2: Get into what your brand can do for the consumer, highlighting specific product benefits. At this stage, consumers should start being able to answer “what’s in it for me?”

Phase 3:  Introduce a clear CTA and tie the story together, reinforcing messages from prior ads and driving consumers to an online, curbside, or in-store purchase.

Phase 4: Re-emphasize the sales messaging from phase 3 and support customer retention and repurchases through spotlighting additional benefits and products. 

Ordering your ads 

As for the specific ordering of ads, there are 2 primary ways to design your campaign, 

True Sequence: A straightforward format where ads are displayed in a linear 1-2-3 order. So viewers of ad 1 move to ad 2, and so on. This approach enables a lot of creative control over the narrative, but it also requires significant effort when there are multiple sequences to build. For that reason, it’s best suited for campaigns with low-to-medium volumes. 

Phased Period: These ads have a specific sequential order determined by time rather than user action. So ad 1 might run for a month and then ad 2 could run for 2 weeks. This setup is best suited for campaigns around a big event like a conference or new product launch. 

One of sequential messaging’s standout features is governance over timing. For instance, someone just discovering your product would benefit most from informational content. However, these folks may be too early in the cycle to urge a purchase decision. 

Likewise, you probably want to nudge the purchase decision for someone more familiar with your brand or product. You don’t want to miss out on that potential conversion opportunity. 

To accomplish this level of sophistication, you need to identify triggers for your ad sets, i.e. actions that send them down a certain story path. These may look like a website or product page visit. 

Here’s why the most recent trigger holds the most value. When someone visits a product page but leaves without taking action, that suggests product familiarity but not purchase intent–which can be due to a million confounding factors. As a response you can supply compelling ad content with key benefits, savings, and other offers to nudge them in the right direction. 

Or, let’s say a consumer is not moving through the journey, despite seeing your intended ad sequence for a new line of paper towels. This could indicate a need for new messaging. Rather than validating savings, try a message which highlights the quality–4X more absorbency. Such pivoting helps thwart off ad fatigue and enhances the advertiser’s learnings. 

Final thoughts for CPG brands 

All in all, sequential messaging is a stellar, though perhaps underused, strategy for speaking to consumers and truly meeting them where they are. While it requires more time and resources to implement, the promise of enhanced communication with consumers is absolutely worth trying. Especially for CPG brands looking to boost brand loyalty.