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Rob T. Case

Candy, Spielberg, Fears and AdWords Income Tiers

Rob T. Case
Candy, Spielberg, Fears and AdWords Income Tiers

When I was very young, Steven Spielberg taught me two very important things: 1) Aliens are not necessarily scary and 2) Reese’s Pieces are amazing. Perfect little candy coated discs of peanut butter worthy of a Shakespearean sonnet. Were it not for the teachings of Wilford Brimley, I might eat them for every meal. Spielberg's product placement in that fine little film was my intro, and I became obsessed with the candy quite quickly.

Fast forward to a brutally cold October day, where my friend and I were looking at a map of our little town and contemplating our strategy for the evening. His goal was big chocolate bars, and mine was the pieces. We had carefully divided Elmira, Ontario into sections. Rich, sort of rich, and avoid. Our plan was to head out at 6pm, and we had 3 hours to hit as many of the houses as we could. 

I understood that night would be my last Halloween, and that had certainly been a jagged pill, but I was extra determined by this to bring in the biggest haul ever. If I have to go out, you better believe I will do it swinging.

I had been growing obsessed with this new artist named Marilyn Manson at the time, and had made up my mind to dress up like him. This was a bit difficult, as my obsession with Kurt Cobain had me rocking some bleach blond hair, plus my resources were limited to an eye liner pen, so I gave it my best shot. In hindsight, I looked a lot more like Courtney Love when I was done, but I had a plan and I was going to execute it.

The Mission Begins

At 5:45 we set out with our pillowcases ready. We had 15 minutes set to reach our first target, and we had all of the energy of youth to propel us. My friend was in full costume, dressed as Jason Voorhees, so when we arrived at the first door, he received instant recognition from the man who answered. 

"Jason eh? Scary stuff." Looks at me. "Are you a...Muppet?"

That was pretty much how each house went. I was called everything from Janis Joplin to Boy George. When I tried to explain it to one older lady, she told me it was odd for a young man to want to dress up like Marilyn Monroe. Clearly my costume was a fail, but the ever increasing weight of my pillowcase made it all okay.

We were absolutely raking it in. We had to run back to the house twice to empty our pillowcases, and get back out there. Time was running out on us quickly though, and by 9 p.m. we had only hit about half of our intended targets. We could see lights going out all up each street, and we pushed on for a bit, but it was clear we were done for. Finally we headed home.


Once we had cleaned up, which took a while as all of the sweat had made the eye liner run all over my face, we grabbed a spot on the basement floor, dumped out our respective bags and began to take inventory of our hard earned edible treasures. I quickly sorted out the terrifying orange and black tar candies, (The ones with the witch and cat designs that were clearly created by an evil dental consortium) and threw them into my friend's pile. He made a disgusted face and tossed them aside.

To my shock, I discovered I had only one tiny pouch of Reese’s Pieces. All that running, and the candy I truly wanted was entirely too absent. I considered our routes, and I found myself wondering why we never made it to the northern rich area on the map.

When planning our route, we had decided to hit a rich area first, then work our way up through the not as rich houses to finish up in the northern rich area. We had assumed that we would easily make our way through all of these houses swiftly, and we had been wrong. I was convinced that all of the good candy had been in the area we didn’t get too, as clearly people with big houses had the resources to understand what real candy was…By trying to cover both rich and not so rich houses, I had wasted my time…

Time is Money

For the past five years, companies have hired me to come in and review their internal digital marketing efforts. I refer to these as audits, because I am essentially auditing their work. In the last 20 audits I have conducted on the work of internal teams, I have noticed none of them have even considered using income tiers in their AdWords. In at least five of those, this was actually causing significant wasted spend, as their product/service was so clearly oriented for specific income levels that anything spent outside of those tiers was a straight up loss.

Two obvious examples would be investment solutions and payday loans. (I know Google is doing away with the payday ads shortly, just using them as an example.) For the investment solutions, your audience will be individuals with a higher income tier 90% of the time. With a payday loan, your audience is always individuals in the lower income tier. For either of these to run without their respective tiers implemented is simply handing Google free money. That is money to pay staff, invest in sales, buy Reese’s Pieces and subscribe to SEMrush. (Spielberg isn’t the only one who can do product placement.)

 AdWords Location Targeting with Income Tiers

To apply an income tier to your campaign, enter the campaign, click on settings, scroll down to the location section, and click edit. Then click advanced targeting.

AdWords: Income Tier 1

At the top right you will see four tabs. Click on the Location groups tab, and then click on the Demographics option.

AdWords: Income Tier 2

Now click on “Select Household Income Tier” and choose the group that applies.

AdWords: Income Tier 3

There you are. Now your campaign is aimed right at the audience your product most attracts, and you are not wasting your time/money on the rest.

This has worked for many of the campaigns I have directed it too. Have you seen different results?

Mission Aftermath

So I’ll admit I wasn’t entirely gutted by the lack of Reese’s Pieces. We had plenty of full size chocolate bars, cans of pop, and crunchy little cheese bites to last a month. I was genuinely annoyed that I had failed to predict my own capability however, and later on I would learn that I should probably take what I assume to be my capabilities, and decrease that by about 50% when planning things.

Of course, I also gained some insights on the importance of strategically targeting the right people, and on valuing my own time more…as the next day Reese’s Pieces Halloween candies were on clearance at the local drug store for $2. All of this considered, I realized I wasn’t going to miss trick or treating as much as I thought. Sometimes it’s easier to just buy it, and this is certainly one of those times.

We ended that night with full bellies and “Night of the Living Dead” on the TV. To me, despite the rest, that was one of my favorite teen memories. Two friends, full of sugar, and trying to act cool as every little noise/shadow in the house creeped them out thanks to George Romero. Good times indeed.

Rob T. Case is a digital marketing expert and President of VonClaro Inc. Rob was Director of Performance for the 2015 Google Search Excellence Award winners, one of four selected to serve as a judge for the 2014 Google Search Excellence Awards, and worked at Google as Adwords Performance Expert training account executives and managers in Search/Adwords best practices. Rob is also co-inventor of the REFbox and co-Host of the radio show/podcast "The Rob and Tristan Show."

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