Challenging preconceived notions of target audiences

Aroon Dougan
May 21, 2017

As part of a recent campaign for an INGO, we carried out extensive testing of Facebook advertising across a broad range of countries. We not only wanted to raise funds for a specific campaign, but were also testing proof of concept of the global digital fundraising strategy we had produced for them.

During a two-week test period, we spent a small amount of money testing which markets achieved a positive ROI, and then rolled out campaign messaging in those markets for the duration of the three-month campaign.

The fundraising target was a relatively straightforward one. The results of the testing on Facebook, however, ended up challenging preconceived notions about the merits of different fundraising audiences.

As part of the strategy, we had drawn up a list of target countries which based on market research we thought they should test marketing messaging in. We allocated tiers depending on a range of factors. These included:

  • whether the country has a well-established culture of charitable giving;
  • the level of personal expendable income; and
  • any supposed connection to the cause.

However, the results didn’t match our demarcation of the countries. Some of the countries put into the top tier performed the worst, and vice versa.

The results brought up some interesting questions and observations:

  • A small country in Asia brought in good results, although it is a limited audience due to its size. Advertising was relatively costly – around ten times more expensive per click-through than any other audience – but the high-value nature of the audience meant that a small number of click-throughs and donations brought good rewards.
  • While one country delivered a large number of click-throughs and donations, the average donation was much lower than other high-performing countries.
  • It is very difficult to predict which countries are going to do badly. Some countries with strong cultures of charitable giving produced very little for the campaign. The poor performance of some countries for which the ads were not in their main languages would be easier to understand. However, this did not deter click-throughs.

The lesson to be learnt from these results is that, while it is important to have a strategy for targeting specific countries, it is even more important to relax any preconceived ideas about those countries. Be prepared to find surprises in giving data, and to respond quickly to any patterns that emerge. If you produce a strategy, test this quickly and cheaply in order to prove or disprove theories. If one audience isn’t responding well, reroute funds from that market to another, better-performing audience.