Content Controllers: 4 Steps to Awareness in Today’s New Advertising World

Dinner was over, the plates cleared, and my 14-year-old self was left standing in my bedroom pondering the same gut-wrenching decision I faced every Thursday: Go with my mom to the store or stay home and watch Magnum P.I. Snicker if you must, but the stakes were high for my pre-teened brain. I could either secure the purchase of Count Chocula over some Chex variant tasting like deer-hoof-flavored tree bark or have a front row seat to 52 minutes of .45 caliber shoot-outs and Ferrari-honed chase scenes.

These were the problems when we had limited sources of news, entertainment and information. Mom clipped the coupons from Wednesday’s paper and Magnum was on one time, date and channel. In fact, besides the movie theater, shows and videos were found on only a handful of choices: ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and some obscure UHF channels. Print news? Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times. Maybe the Herald. Radio? When my beloved 95.5FM WMET changed formats from playing Styx, Rush and Led Zeppelin to Kenny G in the early 80’s, I could count tolerable substitute stations on two fingers.

What does this have to do with growing awareness and sales for your business? Everything. Because today, each of us has greater control over how we choose where to spend our money. Before, companies got attention by loading up the limited media outlets with messages about streak-free shines and jingles about my bologna’s first name. Now, I might come across a million ads or zero. Either way, it’s me who has control, not the organizations trying to sell me.

Today, I can hammer through the entire season of House of Cards on my TV while using my iPad to source coupons and grocery shop. I can find new music in a hundred places, both online and off. For the B2B world, trade magazines, brochures, association booklets and catalogs have given way to Google, Linkedin, blogs and websites. So, while stray copies of Advertising Age float around our office, they are mostly used as coffee mug coasters while we surf the Net looking for the next great inspiration and insight.

Advertisements are either non-existent, or they’re voluminous. Netflix is completely ad free while Google is so inundated with advertising as to be wholly ignorable. We are more savvy and have more control over what we see, hear and read. Whether ads pop up, slide across or drop in, if it’s not relevant, I can physically or mentally dispatch them all clickety-split.

Fact is, any organization trying to get a target market’s attention today, either consumers or key decision makers for businesses, is fighting an uphill battle. Gone are the days of people being tied to a few channels, stations, papers and associations, where it was easy for a brand to advertise over and over to captive eyeballs. That kind of “broadcasting” is becoming less and less effective. Especially if you don’t have millions to spend.

So how do you compete? How do you gain awareness? How do you break through the mess of advertising that’s already being ignored as people consume their news, entertainment and information from a growing number of media outlets available on multiple devices?

Answering those questions will be part of our ongoing discussion happening right here in this space. That said, there are four broad points that organizations should follow to best position themselves in the minds of purchasers.

  1. Find your relevancy: Discover the connection that lies between you and your target market. What is it that you do differently than everyone else? And how does that relate to your market’s needs or wants? People want sophisticated technology that’s simple to use. Through its unique software and hardware designs, Apple is able to provide complex computer platforms that are simple enough for a three-year old to use, literally.
  2. Walk the talk: It used to be that three to four touchpoints were needed for people to remember your company. Now it’s seven to eight. Communicate your connection in everything you do, whether it’s a video or blog post. And give them all a consistent look and feel so that each touchpoint counts. Apple communicates their relevant connection “sophisticated technology that’s simple to use” through simple, uncluttered designs across their ads, website and displays. Or think of how Virgin Atlantic delivers that rock star feel in their ads, online experience and even uniforms.
  3. Follow their tracks: Great advertising doesn’t interrupt, it engages and adds value. Where is your market spending their time and when is it the right time to become part of their search? Social media can be very powerful in engaging target markets. But a compelling, relevant direct mail campaign can be just as effective depending on your target market and their buying cycle.
  4. Add value: Your market wants one of two things: information or entertainment. Provide either or both.

We’re living in amazing times. Our new control over what we watch, read and hear is making companies focus on how they deliver value instead of simply pushing out messages. Comment below with your thoughts. In the meantime, I’m curling up with a bowl of my Peapod-sourced Count Chocula and watching Magnum reruns on YouTube. Or maybe later. It’s all up to me now. ❒

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