On the surface, this may seem like a straightforward question. If you produce movies, energy drinks, or running shoes, entertainment is your business. Most of us don’t work for brands like that. We sell valves, insurance policies, or accounting services–not the kind of sexy stuff that evokes laughter or tears (unless done incredibly badly).
Still, we live in a time when even the most mundane brands feel they need television commercials, radio ads, social-media gimmicks, and blogs to remain competitive.
It’s absolutely critical that people Like your brand on Facebook, pin your images on Pinterest, subscribe to your YouTube channels, and RT your 140 characters of brilliance, right? Not necessarily. Many companies struggle so acutely with this modern marketing mix that they’ve been driven to spend too much money buying media to promote their content posts or to acquire fans (there’s an oxymoron in there, if you think about it). The fact of the matter is, you can invest a great deal of time and money trying to create value in a world that’s too cluttered to know the difference. Often, the reward just isn’t there.
1. Are you just screaming louder than everyone else?
Fifteen years ago, marketing experienced a new dawn. Social media enabled real interactions between brands and actual human beings. As powerful and profound as that was (and still is), the waters have grown murky. The current arms race for Likes, friends, followers, subscribers, retweets, pins, and clicks has brought with it an oversimplification of brand-marketing strategies.
Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are no longer encouraging brands to figure out ways to create depth of meaning and connections with their consumers. If you scratch slightly beneath the surface, those models are almost identical to traditional advertising ones. But in today’s marketplace, the assumption is that the brand that screams the loudest gets the most attention.
So, is the promise of social media dead? Do we really need to care about depth of interactions, building true relationships, and nurturing people toward engagement? Or are we looking for just another quick fix in a long history of advertising’s version of the one-night stand?
2. Tell me what you want–what you really, really want.
As digital assumes a more prominent position within the marketing mix, smart brands are digging deep to discover what adds value to the consumer’s life. They are asking how their brand–in a world where anyone can publish anything in text, images, audio, and video–can create something so compelling that it becomes an integral part of a consumer’s digital experience. Well, it turns out consumers ignore advertising today with the same veracity and frequency as they did back before we were able to target, customize, personalize, and build “true relationships.”
According to a Research Brief published earlier this week, “82 percent of Americans ignore online ads, ahead of television ads at 37 percent. 92 percent of Americans ignore at least one type of ad seen every day across six different types of media,” according to the first annual Goo Online Advertising Survey, from Goo Technologies. “The online ads Americans are most likely to ignore included: online banner ads (73%), followed by social media ads (62%), and search engine ads (59%). The highest wage earners, those with a household income of $100k+ per year, were statistically more likely than those households making less than $50k per year (86% vs. 78%, respectively) to say they ignore online ads. Overall, the 65+ age group ignored the most, while the 35-44 age group ignored the least.”
3. Ad revenue would beg to differ.
If that one study reflected the industry at large, fire alarms should be clanging from Madison Avenue to Silicon Valley. We continue to see ad spending shift from traditional channels to digital ones in hopes that customization, analytics, and targeting will create a more effective form of advertising. So, what do consumers really want? Goo Technologies went on to report that consumers would like advertising to:
1. Look more interesting.
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2. Not feel like an ad (whatever that means).
3. Be funny.
4. Be entertaining.
5. Have stunning graphics.
6. Feature a sexy man or woman (I can’t make this stuff up).
7. Be more interactive.
4. Nothing new in new media.
If you’re wondering why all of that technology, analytics, or retargeting is not moving the needle, or why your last YouTube video didn’t find the viral success you were hoping for, it turns out that consumers–no matter how evolved in their technological prowess–are overwhelmed.
Advertising is everywhere. Consumers are either ignoring it as much as possible or simply want it to give them a chuckle or raise an eyebrow before they move on. As simple as that sounds, not many brands are in the business of entertainment, and that’s the true rub.
Consumers are online, connected, creating, curating, and sharing. As intellectual and powerful as that is, nothing will get them to act on your message unless you can really entertain them. Smart advertising is good entertainment. Surprise! Nothing much has really changed in the game of advertising, no matter how sophisticated and evolved the platforms and opportunities have become.