I'm a marketer.
But I'm also a traditional marketer's worst nightmare.
I've been a cord-cutter for over a decade. My family consumes our "television" via streaming services: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+... none of which contains any advertising, aside from featuring promos for upcoming films and series. The money marketers spend on television ads is almost always wasted on me.
When I drive somewhere, I'm usually listing to my Spotify Premium subscription, not the radio, so I won't hear any radio ads. I'll occasionally listen to a podcast, and so I'll sometimes hear advertising there. But podcast ads are easy to skip, and very few marketers (relatively speaking) are allocating budget to sponsoring podcasts right now anyway.
Pre-COVID, when I'd travel downtown from my home North of the city, I'd often take the GO Train. I might have occasionally looked out the window in time to see an out-of-home ad on a billboard near the tracks, but it didn't happen often. The out-of-home ads inside the trains themselves could capture my attention... but they were usually too uninteresting to do so.
I subscribe to four different newspapers, but I read them every day via each company's apps. I can't remember the last time I even saw a print ad, let alone remembered one. There are sometimes ads embedded within each article, but when I'm in the middle of reading a story, I'll scroll by them too quickly to notice them.
But I can be reached on the Internet, right?
Sure... sometimes. I spend a lot of time on the Internet, but most of it is purpose-driven: I connect to specific websites because I'm looking for specific information. The time I spend on social media is used to keep up with news about my friends and the world at large. When I'm on the Internet, I'm not always receptive to commercial messages.
So how can marketers reach me, and the growing number of people like me?
Be where I am.
Brands don't have to be everywhere. In fact, they shouldn't be: when they try, they usually stretch their budgets too thin and fail to do anything particularly well.
But if your consumers are on Tik Tok... you should be on Tik Tok. And if you don't understand TikTok, you need to hire people who do. Now replace "Tik Tok" with whatever platform your target audience uses most. Facebook? Snapchat? LinkedIn? You need to know where your audience hangs out, and you need to be there in an interesting and relevant way.
A portion of your budget should also be allocated to Search, for the same reason: when people actively seek you (or your category) out, you should be easily found. If you sell radios, and you don't appear every time somebody searches for "best radio", that's a huge #fail.
And speaking of hashtags, Twitter might be the most underutilized platform in terms of brands maintaining two-way conversations with their fans. Sure, there are a lot of brands on Twitter, but I believe not enough of them use it to the platform's full potential. If your target audience is a Twitter user, investing the right resources to be able to have great conversations with those who want to connect with your brand is probably a great idea.
Your traditional television ads won't reach me on traditional television, but there's a good chance I'll see them if they're so good that my friends share them on social media. After all, I couldn't care less if a brand wants me to see an ad, but if a friend recommends one to me, I'll definitely watch it. When you're creating content, if you're not asking yourself about its "shareability", you're making a huge mistake right from the start.
Marketers often live and breathe their brands, so they might be forgiven for thinking that a simple line extension in their portfolio or a new product feature counts as "big news". Unfortunately, for most people, it doesn't. But there are changes you can make that people will really care about (such as significant support of a charitable initiative related to your business, for example), and a great public relations team is worth its weight in gold.
Be a great experience.
I'm a big fan of experiential marketing done well. Not those disinterested people standing in grocery store aisles handing out samples; I'm talking about interacting with consumers in a creative and relevant way, offering unique, "on-brand" experiences that leave a positive impression.
A few years back, Walmart Canada promoted its new pet food brand with a dog-friendly food truck made exclusively for dogs, then sent it to an event called "Woofstock" that's billed as "North America's largest festival for dogs." Do you think dog-lovers would have noticed the truck and interacted with it? Yeah, so do I. Molson Canadian's Global Beer Fridge is another fantastic example; although the small experiential activation was turned into a video for broader public consumption, it was still a tremendously positive experience for those who were able to directly interact with it. Is it easy to develop a strategic idea that will make people want to pay attention? No... but if it was easy, everybody would do it.
Be ready when I need you.
Is it unfair to expect my fellow marketers to leave me alone when I don't want to be bothered, yet be there for me with the perfect answer when I'm looking for information? Of course! But too bad... that's exactly what marketers today need to do.
When I'm in a physical store, make sure your product is easy to find on the shelf, and never out-of-stock. Ensure all of your employees are effective brand ambassadors: attentive, well-trained, pleasant, and doing everything they can to create a positive shopping experience. Attractive, creative displays will help catch my attention, and money-saving coupons will lower my risk of trying your product for the first time. Online, ensure your website is easy-to-navigate and contains answers to the most common questions about your brands and categories. (Then utilize paid search so when I type a question into my search engine, your product appears as the legitimate answer to my query.)
It's difficult for marketers to reach me.
But it's certainly not impossible.