The consumer hasn’t changed, but technology continues to advance. Now, consumers who never wanted to see our ads in the first place, have more ways to avoid them than ever. Today consumers interface with multiple devices a day, often simultaneously. If an ad comes on TV, the consumer can whip out his cell phone and send a text or play a game until it’s over, and that’s not his only alternative.
The Technology Problem
Thanks to DVR technology, Sirius receivers that can cache music, and ad blocking technology, consumers have more ways than ever to ignore advertisements—assuming they don’t just avoid the ads in the first place by using Netflix, iPods, or some other ad-free device. So, as marketers, we’re now dealing with a consumer who doesn’t want to see ads and he has the technology to avoid them. How can we break through to this technologically advanced consumer?
A Shift in Focus
The rapid speed at which technology is advancing seems to support the old saying that “you can’t stop progress,” so it’s more fruitful to focus on the consumer. The question isn’t, “how can we make consumers see our ad?,” it’s “how can we make them want to see our ad?” Better still, “how can we make them advertise for us?” The answer is viral marketing.
Enter the Virus
Viral marketing isn’t a science, but it’s not magic either. It’s more than just throwing together a bunch of kitten pictures and dancing baby videos then hoping something takes off (which is more like a game of craps than a marketing strategy). Optimizing marketing efforts according to certain principles will significantly increase social sharing.
The three key principles of social sharing are value, emotion, and simplicity, and by focusing on these principles, we will be more effective with our budgets and our clients will get more for their money. Here’s how can you integrate these principles into your approach:
Space in a consumer’s social media feed isn’t free. When an agency buys time for a TV or radio ad, it pays the station and the station runs the ad. It’s trickier with viral marketing. You have to offer something to the consumer. You have to offer value.
There are three types of value: superficial value, entertainment value, and practical value. Each one fulfills a psychology need for the consumer and the more you can offer in a single effort the better.
Value is only part of the puzzle. It increases the likelihood of sharing on its own, but to get the most mileage out of your efforts, another factor must be taken into consideration. That factor is emotion.
When placing a TV ad, the agency signs a contract with the station and the station guarantees the ad will run at a certain time, reaching a certain number of a defined group of people. In other words the buy guarantees target audience, number of impressions, and a designated time.
You can increase the likelihood that the consumer will not just interact with his message, but will also share the message with others by evoking certain emotions that put the consumer in a state of activation or arousal.
Activation is a psychological term that refers to “the stimulation of the cerebral cortex into a state of general wakefulness, or attention” and studies have shown that people are more likely to share information when in this state. The key to putting consumers in this state is to evoke high arousal emotions.
The emotions can be positive or negative, but not just any positive or negative emotions will do. Awe, excitement, and amusement are the most effective positive high arousal emotions, while anger and anxiety are effective negative high arousal emotions. Find ways to evoke these emotions with your marketing efforts and you will find that it significantly extends your reach.
When placing a TV ad, the agency gives the station the spot that it wants to run and the station runs it. Viral marketing requires more precision. It’s not enough that your message be shared. You must be sure that it will be shared as accurately and completely as possible. When your message is being shared through social media it can be distorted like a message delivered through a game of Telephone. The simpler the content, the better the recall and the increased likelihood it will be passed along accurately—whether digitally or in conversation—thus furthering the message in the desired way.
To ensure that your effort has the desired effect, it should be simple to consume, understand, and share.
In this new age of marketing, where unwanted ads go unwatched, these principles should become a primary focus of marketers moving forward. You can squeeze the most out of every dime of your budget by evoking high arousal emotions and offering value in a way that is simple to consume, understand, and share.