Everything is changing so fast around us today that it’s becoming more and more challenging to keep up. From technology, to the way we interact with each other, working habits, consumer trends, travel experiences, social media, political affairs… So much so, that when someone casually asks us “how are you doing?” or default response is “busy!” As if not being busy would make us look like the outcasts of today’s society! We live our lives on a never stopping treadmill that most of the times is running on someone else’s clock.
For marketing professionals, this constant state of motion and change can be even more challenging since the success of their business depends primarily, on how they can convince the rest of the “always busy” people of the world to take a short break to learn, read, listen or take a look at their marketing message. With the average attention span for a person these days hovering at around 6 seconds, that’s all the time you have to ‘sell’ them something they don’t know they need.
This is something that really fascinates me. I’ve spent most of my professional life working and studying marketing trends and consumer behavior as it relates to people’s daily lives and what influences their decision making processes. The thoughts that you see below are just a collection of random notes that I’ve written down over the past 2-3 months each time I’ve come up to a certain conclusion. I’m sharing them with all of you so you can see if you relate to them or not, agree with them or not, or even if they have any effect on you in your professional life.
One thing has become clear to me over the years. When it comes to marketing trends, it’s a black and white debate. Either people believe and see what is coming in the future or they don’t and choose to live their lives in complete denial.
As I mentioned earlier, the “Attention” of the end consumer (read all of us) is decreasing, while the demand for attention is increasing. If you just go back 10 years, back then we kept in touch with our friends via regular phone call. On TV we watched daily news once or twice a day, and we all read a few sections of the daily newspaper and a couple of weekly magazines to keep up with celebrities’ gossip and our hobbies. That was it!
Today, newspapers are dead. Magazines are also dying. We don’t even want our friends or family to call us anymore. We prefer them to text us so that we can get back to them on our on time, also via text of course. In the meantime, we are constantly checking our smartphones to be updated about everything and everyone no matter where we are in the world. We get all news and information as it happens!
Most of the time I talk to other people or even my friends about my vision of where marketing and technology in general is going in next few years and they look at me like I have 3 heads! These are the same people that didn’t think computers would change their lives, believed the Internet was not for them, thought that social media was just for kids, or believed that their investments were always safe and their pensions would last forever.
You hear people saying “yeah, it’s crazy, maybe in a couple of years I will look into it, or I many have to consider that option in the future, etc.” as if it is a chore to do something that will get you better results. My thoughts? In a couple of years, you may have to find another job because you fail to recognize what was coming two years ago. Again, either you believe in it or you don’t.
I have the privilege of interacting on a daily basis with CMOs, DOMs, and all sorts of marketing professionals that are supposed to be on the cutting edge in their marketing field, yet it amazes me how ‘stuck’ they are with the same old playbook that they’ve used for the past 10 years while each year they get worse results than the year before. Even more intriguing is the fact that outside of the office, they all behave as consumers and practitioners of the very same type of consumer behavior that they believe will not be effective for their companies when it comes to fine tuning their annual marketing budgets.
In my case, I first learned about computers just as I graduated from college and I too thought that they wouldn’t affect my life. At that time, I truly thought that they would be something for the next generation. I was happy completing my term papers using my trustworthy electric typewriter. Boy was I wrong! It only took me a few weeks to realize that a BIG change was coming. That I would have to learn how to use computers (or master them) if I wanted to succeed. In fact, I was able to get my first job at a video production company because I was the only one who knew how to use Windows 3.1 (nobody even bothered with Windows 1.0 or 2.0 or even 3.0 back then). In just 24 hrs I went from being a new recruit to becoming indispensable for the daily operations of that company.
Today, we all have mobile devices in our pockets or purses that have more power than the original super computers; we deal with Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications every day, Augmented Reality (AR) is growing fast, and Virtual Reality (VR) is rapidly expanding into a number of industries. FANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google) algorithms know more about each of us than we know ourselves. In fact, if you have a Facebook account and have collected more than 150 likes from your friends responding to your posts, Facebook knows more about you now than you and most of your friends. Crazy, right?
Those companies, along with Apple, Instagram, Spotify, Twitter, Snapchat, and many others that we interact with every day, GET IT! They are collectively fighting for our attention. How? They have realized how today’s consumers spend their time, and they are targeting them exactly where they are and showing them what they like, when they like it and how they like it… and keep in mind, they are also targeting their friends in the process.
How many marketing professionals are now thinking of developing Alexa Skills or Google Home apps, or AR apps, or even developing custom media content for their companies? The answer is VERY, VERY few. Why? Because in 2018 they are still obsessed with creating a politically correct print ad showing a handful of multi-ethnic happy people consuming their product… a print ad that will appear on page 24 of some magazine that will be left behind at some doctor’s office waiting room, or at a car wash or at your dentist office.
And even more fascinating to me is the fact that many of those marketing professionals buying print ad space from any magazine, are also believing the skewed reports they get from their equally inefficient Ad or PR agency about the number of people that were “reached” with their ads and the “advertising value” that they earned from it. I’m sorry, did I miss something here? I thought I read years ago that Newsweek was stopping print circulation, and Time, Inc. has recently announced that it plans to reduce print circulation for Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly and others; Teen Vogue has also stopped production and the list goes on and on… You don’t have to be too sharp to figure out that people’s attention these days is not in print!
My personal opinion and what I do for my own company… That amount of money spent on that print ad is incredibly more effective when spent on a Facebook, Instagram or a LinkedIn ad in the case of B2B.
Back to my first point above: either people believe in the new social landscape or they don’t. But here’s my argument: even if you don’t believe in current and developing technologies like AI, live video or voice apps, wouldn’t the fact that large companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, etc. are investing billions of dollars developing those applications convince you that in the very near future we will all be interacting, searching, researching, and functioning in our daily lives via voice and AI devices? Last time I checked, none of those companies where developing a better printing press or a better way to design a print brochure. Aren’t those the same companies that over the past decade have dictated the way we interact with our phones, our friends, the way we watch TV shows, movies, videos, take photos, get our news, purchase online, book our flights, etc.?
Here’s a practical example. Flash animation software, owned by Adobe, was never compatible with Apple products (iPads, iPhones, Safari browser, etc.). The late Steve Jobs never liked Flash, and at that point, many years ago, I realized that Flash days were numbered. For that reason, while the ‘inefficient’ design agencies were still selling you lots of Flash applications because that’s all they knew how to do, I invested in developing apps (such as our MGR WebBooks) that would NOT require Flash and therefore, would work on all browsers and platforms. Then, we did the same for advertising banners, photo galleries, and very much, everything else. We all know that Flash is now dead and all browsers from Edge, to Chrome, Firefox, are not supporting it anymore. If you listened to your old ad agency, you’re in trouble now. They just DID NOT GET IT, or worse yet, they knew the end was near, yet they kept selling you an obsolete technology.
The Internet is so young that few people really understand the impact that it will have in our lives or how we do business whether it is B2B or B2C. And when I say Internet, I’m not talking about just Facebook, Google, Twitter, your favorite websites, etc. I’m referring to the Internet in the wide range of connectivity around the world. The Internet Of Things (IOT)
Another interesting point of view that fascinates me is how many businesses and marketing pros actually talk very passionately about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Podcasting, among other channels as not being a viable ROI for them, yet, they’ve never used any of those channels themselves. Or even worse, they have that opinion because once upon a time, they had a friend or their nephew with zero knowledge about online marketing place an ad for them and it didn’t turn any results.
The typical line that I hear is “oh, we tried “xyz” before and it didn’t work for us…” Ok, here are my questions for you: how did you try it, who did it for you, what didn’t work, did you fine tune your campaigns and ads and try it again, did you select the proper audience and format, or better yet, did you hire a company that really knows what they are doing to formulate and design the campaigns for you? It’s no different that going to a movie theater, not liking the movie, and saying, “oh, I tried movies in the past but they don’t work for me, I won’t go to the movie theater again.”
You can rest assured that at MGR we will not propose something to a client until we haven’t tried it ourselves and have proven it to be effective. We are practitioners that actually play the game on our own dime rather than just watching other people play to decide whether something works or doesn’t work for our clients. We choose to develop our own experience rather than recommend something based on third party results.
Again, keep in mind that you’re always fighting for your audience’s attention. A lot of times, all it takes is a little fine tuning. Are you targeting the right demographic group, or are you targeting the right geographic locations, or are you targeting them in their time zone, income level, language, hobbies, and on and on… It’s no longer one-size-fits-all and hope it will stick. It’s day-trading attention backed up by a lot of research. The amount of time spent by our team on a single and well-targeted Instagram post is incredible and not the stereotypical image of a selfie taken at a coffee shop. That’s the difference between succeeding and failing. It is far more a mix of strategy and art than many people realize.
By the same token, I’m starting to see a similar wasteful ad spending trend starting to develop in a large percentage of Digital Advertising via banner ads. The so-called “Programmatic Advertising” very rarely works, primarily because it lacks the “programmatic” aspect of it. In other words, the majority of ads are still being served by advertising platforms in front of the wrong audience. As long as the CPM remains low, it’s not too bad, but when we see the CPM going up and the audience being too broad, it’s time to ‘sell’ those ads and ‘buy’ our attention somewhere else.
I don’t think people realize how the focus of attention has changed over the past few years, or even in the past couple of years! Every person with a smart phone can now broadcast live to the rest of the world at any time of the day. Think about it. Just 10 years ago, if you wanted to record some video of your event (let alone live video) you had to spend thousands of dollars to rent cameras, lighting equipment, crews, etc. I made a living out of video production! believe me, I know very well how it worked. Today, you can just aim your cell phone camera, hit the “Live” button and reach your audience’s attention inexpensively anytime! Compare that level of interaction (cost and engagement) with your old-fashioned print ad! (yes, the one you had to submit in January to meet the print deadline for April’s issue…)
At MGR, our goal has always be to be a modern agency that is more concerned about reaching real people than showing phony stats and reporting bogus ROI numbers. We want to help each client become its own media company, with full control over its content and distribution channels. We don’t care so much about impressions or likes as we care about actual results, which in most cases is actual dollar revenues that you can see and verify.
Let’s make something great together!
Thank you for reading. Until next time, this is Manuel Gil del Real (MGR).
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