How do we reach out despite widespread advertising fatigue?

Advertising, no thanks? Brand items – yes please!

How do we reach out, despite widespread advertising fatigue?

Today we live in an information society, where people spend an increasing amount of time on managing information. Information and messages to take in, sort out, absorb and process – and ideally act out of. The amount of information inundating us on a daily basis is constantly increasing at the same time as the channels grow in numbers. Living and working in an urban environment today means you are exposed to thousands of messages everyday. Inspiring or exhausting? Informative or irritating? For a company to reach out in this noise and leave a lasting impression is becoming increasingly difficult. An increasing amount of people choose to unsubscribe from newsletters and send-outs, more than 25 percent of Swedish households have a sign on their mailboxes saying “Advertising – no thanks”, and surveys suggest that advertising fatigue is increasing, also amongst the younger population.

What are we tired of, really?

Advertisement is defined as a mass media aiming to highlight and create attention – attention to ideas, products, and services. Traditionally, advertising has been created
to influence and change the opinions, values, and actions of other people, and above all influence customer behavior. We live intensive lives where we are being flooded by messages, starting from when we leave our homes in the morning until you return back home. It’s physically impossible for the human brain to take in and process all the information generated by the marketing of today. And we all know that it revolves around more than just being seen – it’s about being remembered. Being bothered by companies and messages at times we consider “our very own” can be perceived as something negative. One of the main reasons for us having such a negative view on advertising is probably the feeling of being disturbed. Аn imposed commercial break during a great movie or a disturbing sales call during a relaxing family night turn into annoyances. That’s where you’ll find your answer – an imposed or negative break increases advertising fatigue, regardless of how good the offer or product is.

Flamboyant or subtle?

TV, radio, podcasts, Internet, direct mailings, cinema, outdoor advertising, newsletters and loads of other places. Today we are in constant reach of advertising through various communication channels, basically wherever we are located. If you actively turn off your TV during a commercial break in the middle of the movie and go to the kitchen in order to make a cup of evening tea, it’s not unlikely that you are greeted by a sales message for a new product on the milk package. Even if you opt out of addressed advertising, you are sure to still receive offers from some of the companies you are already a customer with. If you make sure to get to the cinema after the commercials are over, exactly when the movie actually starts, you are still going to be exposed to smart product placement in the movie.
Subtle advertising messages are increasing in numbers, and maybe product placement and editorial advertisements are a consequence of the widespread advertising fatigue. The subtle advertising messages are often smart and not considered as intrusive. It’s not always clear what is advertising or when it comes to product placement or sponsored features on TV, in newspapers, or blogs. A survey from the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman shows that one out of three Swedes have seen a message, which they cannot determine if it was
advertising or not – a lack of clarity, which could have both negative and positive consequences. But the trend is clear – an increasing amount of people try to avoid being exposed to advertising at the wrong times. The registrations at Nix, the free-of-charge phone blocking register, are increasing and services and apps for subscribing from digital newsletters are becoming ever better. When actively opting out of advertising has become an issue of privacy, the challenge for companies lies in finding other ways and new combinations of medias to reach out.

Advertising 2.0 – relevant and right

Advertising 2.0 is a term sometimes used in digital marketing. As traditional medias loose viewers and readers, our presence and receptivity increases on the Internet.
Internet and social media has very much indeed changed our ways of consuming, but also our openness to messages and influence. Basically, Advertising 2.0 is a new way of seeing the sender of the advertisements in relation to the receiver of the advertisements. The receiver has gone from being a passive consumer to becoming an active communicator, who in many ways shapes the story of the brand. Through social media sites and interest groups online, we go from being passive “consumers” to active “prosumers”. The fact that a lot of what we do online is traceable and searchable offers completely new opportunities for both consumers and companies. New technology makes it easier for us to choose what we want to see and when we want to see it, and dissemination of messages and the brand is encouraged by new approaches. A full page advertisement could never reach the same dissemination as a web campaign, where the receiver’s opportunity to interact and influence generates commitment. In combination with blogs, events, and physical products, the campaign effect could become big.

Tips worth considering for all brands, regardless of channel:
• Do not accept that you no longer would have the exclusive right to your brand.
• Create bigger relevance between content and the choice of time and meeting place. We are tired of advertising. Instead of intruding, you have to appeal to the user.
• Channel existing commitment to the product or service. Focus on drivers that make the consumer want to commit themselves to your product. Let the consumer interact with the brand. Involve the consumer. Be perceptive. Encourage creativity.
• Encourage the consumer to tell their own story about the brand. Everybody wants to tell a good story, especially if it is a story of their own.
• Provide the consumer with the tools to spread their story about the brand. Encourage them to spread it themselves.
• People do not always trust brands, but they trust their friends.

To touch senses is to touch feelings

There are many critical voices about intrusive advertising and information. In the book Desinformation, written by Fredrik Linde, the criticism comes to a head: “Is it reasonable that senders of information are allowed to mentally molest and manipulate the public, almost wherever, whenever and as much as they please?” What Linde calls “disinformation” are all those occasions when we are exposed to information at a time or a place when we are in no need of the conveyed message. He advocates mental peace and companies to a greater extent investing in the substance of the products rather than in misleading advertising. Fredrik Hillerborg, a blogger at Resumé, Scandinavia’s biggest business magazine about advertising and marketing communication, offers some opposition to this stance. An IHR graduate with a Masters in Strategic Communication, he writes about the communications business at large and he comments on the opinions put forward in Desinformation: “Is there something wrong with the products being emotionally charged (through advertising) when the consumers’ behavior is guided by emotions? Doesn’t using emotionally charged products mean you meet emotional consumers at their own level?”. And somewhere along these lines we find the core of the whole advertising fatigue problem. It revolves around emotions. Products and brand awareness are sold to people, and we are all guided by emotions.

Increased growth and broad media mix

While advertising fatigue appears to spread, the 2014 third quarter report from the IRM Institute for Advertising and Media Statistics shows that the advertising market is doing well. Growth amounts to 3.1 percent relative the same period of the previous year, thus generating a turnover of 7.2 billion SEK. It’s the strongest growth seen since the third quarter of 2011, and the fifth quarter in a row with positive growth. Digital media remains the predominant growth driver on the market. However, there are several media categories that have experienced a strong development during the past quarter. Outdoor marketing, radio, cinema, and store media all show two digit growth numbers during the third quarter this year.

Brand items – design, utility, and quality

Smell, touch, taste, hearing, and sight. A physical product can activate and touch several and sometimes all senses all at once. It offers you a chance to allow the receiver to fully experience your brand. Compare it with a printed advertisement which can only be perceived through sight, or a radio commercial which can only reach its audience through hearing. Our senses control and influence how we feel and act. A physical product can express a company’s identity and affect behavior and attitudes. If the products have been designed the right way, people, your customers, will want to use them in their everyday lives. Through our five senses, brand items can constitute a channel for strong messages and feelings, as well as make people think, feel, and act. A single placement of a logo won’t do the whole job. It’s the product design, utility, and quality that create relevance and meaningfulness. Products people choose to use in their daily lives open the door for your brand into people’s homes, their workplaces, and in contexts where they spend their spare time. And maybe most important of all – brand items do not interrupt people where they are. Well selected and carefully thought out, needs can be met and problems can be solved. Tangible utility products that become important in the consumers’ everyday lives turn into valuable reminders of your brand, again and again. Brand items can signal safety and care, give inspiration, and encourage creativity. And just like people, a brand is made out of a diverse collection of conscious and unconscious thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. And it’s precisely these thoughts, feelings, and attitudes you want to influence and make a part of your brand.

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