The marketing landscape gets more and more cluttered every day. Adding to traditional media, you now have cable networks, XM radio stations, online newspapers, and a growing number of social networks, many of them with overlapping users who have profiles on several different platforms, that all compete for viewer eyeballs. Fragmentation in the media makes it harder and harder for businesses to get their message to consumers who are overwhelmed with a huge number of marketing messages every time they sit down to enjoy some relaxation and entertainment. This clutter makes it difficult to reach the brand’s marketing strategy goals.
Breaking Through the Marketing Clutter
There are two ways to break through the clutter. The first option, one that’s increasingly common is by using targeting on social networks so you only reach users who match your criteria, thus avoiding blasting noise to everyone else on the platform. The second option for cutting through the clutter is using psychological principles to stand out above the noise. Let’s explore these two options today.
Social networks break marketing clutter
Traditional marketing communication is a one-way form where brands bang loudly on their bandstand so they can shout their message in hopes you’ll buy their brand. This type of advertising is probably as old as the stone age and much older than the discipline of marketing.
As consumers, we’re bombarded with this marketing messaging and have largely learned to tune it out by paying a premium to get content without commercials (for example, streaming video, subscription radio, and news services, leaving the room for a snack or bathroom break during commercials, or skimming past paid posts identified on search and social. We’ve also learned to discount their messages as self-serving communication and this is nowhere as true as sponsored posts on Facebook where it seems almost nothing performs as well as it does in the sponsored video.
But, we do listen to the views of our friends and are more likely to take their recommendations. The strategy of using social networks to break through marketing clutter centers on the fact that you are more involved (engaged) with your friends and want to share information and experiences with them. Friends also have more credibility because they are objective; without any motivation to tell you something they don’t believe. Thus, when your friend tells you they liked a movie or restaurant, you are likely to listen to them and believe them. Plus, people are your friends because you share common interests, values, and lifestyles. So, you figure it this person who is like you recommends something, you’ll probably like it, as well.
Companies understand you believe your friends more than the brand and are more willing to accept their recommendations. That’s why they use models/ actors in their ads, so the recommendations seem to come from a friend. Of course, we’re savvy and realize models/ actors recommend a brand because the brand paid them.
Users attributed recommendations they see from friends on social networks as reflecting unbiased attitudes because no one pays them to endorse a product. That’s the notion behind influencer marketing.
Companies increasingly try to harness the energy in social networks by capturing influencers and incentivizing them (giving them free products, insider information, or discounts) to spread the corporate message or other positive information about the company and its brands with the notion that users will see their endorsements as natural and, thus, more credible.
This is a great marketing strategy on the surface. Unfortunately, as consumers become aware of this practice, ie. compensating influencers in some way, they become more skeptical of their friends and what they have to say. Overuse of this marketing strategy may negate the positive potential of the practice.
Influencers come in all types.
Some are influential because users see them as experts in some area, which gives them credibility. In marketing, we’ve called these people tribal leaders (which has nothing to do with Native Americans) or opinion leaders. Some influencers have influence because we like and respect them and we want them to like us, which comes from psychology relating to affiliation needs and sociology, which shows how humans are social creatures. Get enough people talking about your brand in their social networks and you have buzz or viral marketing.
Some influencers have massive influence across a broad range of products because we want to emulate them — we want to be like them. Examples include movie stars, government and religious leaders, and musicians. That’s why companies pay a fortune to these celebrity endorsers to Tweet about their products or use the product in photographs.
Psychological strategies for breaking the clutter
There’s a lot going on around us — too much for any individual to pay attention to everything. So, we learn strategies to reduce demands on our attention. Probably it’s an evolutionary response that dictates those elements of our environment we should pay attention to and other things to ignore.
The trick in capturing attention is to get people to pay attention to your message. On television, advertisers employ this marketing strategy by increasing the perceived volume in their advertising. In print, a marketing strategy to capture attention might involve glossy paper and color schemes that make the commercial message stand out. On social networks, businesses capture attention with highly visual messaging shared by people you know.
Since most advertising messages reach us when we’re not in a position to do anything about them (ie. purchase), we have to retain the information until we get to the retailer, either online or off. Even if we’re sitting with a computer in our lap (or a smartphone, which is really just a compact computer that makes phone calls), we don’t often interrupt our pleasure to buy something at the moment we see an advertisement.
Using selective retention as part of your marketing strategy involves repeating your message, using catchy jingles that seem to stick in your viewer’s head, and integrated marketing communication such that aspects of marketing communication re-enforce each other.
For instance, using the same logo in your advertising, on your signage in your retail stores, and in your company uniforms allows the message to build over time, with each implementation reinforcing earlier exposures. Linking your message with other things your consumers know also helps to build mindmaps where stored information is both more easily retrievable and where unbranded messages recall the brand message. For instance, a message indicating your brand is less expensive than its more well-known counterpart may help with the retention of your message by storing it linked to what you know about the known brand. Also, when the user sees a message from the better-known brand, they may also retrieve adjacent information about your brand. We call this shared field of experience.
Combining marketing strategies
Just because there are two ways of breaking through the marketing clutter doesn’t mean you have to use one or the other — you can use both.
Combining traditional advertising with social media is a particularly advantageous marketing strategy. You must take care; however, in combining marketing strategies. If too few messages reach the individual consumer they’re less likely to act on the message. We can this frequency and consumers need multiple exposures to the message (the exact number depends on a variety of contextual issues) before they retain the message and the message impacts their attitudes and future behaviors related to your brand. Hence, companies have to balance reach to ensure much of the target marketing hears your message, with frequency.
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