I remember the first time I landed at Port Authority in Manhattan. It was evening, and although I was excited to be there, I couldn’t escape the impression that my eyes were being assaulted. I recall feeling overwhelmed by the giant, overly bright screens. Tall buildings advertised scents, clothing, and athletic gear from atop almost every structure within my view. I was suffering the effects of marketing overload, and it was painful.

Sometimes, it feels like that electronic plague of advertisers has spread and taken over the world. Sure, there have always been banner ads, pop ups, and crawls across our screens. But now, movies on cable and streaming services tack on 20-minute blocks of commercials when we’re already paying for their content. Every video is sponsored by someone and blogs double as corporate affiliates. It’s difficult to play a game or send a message on your phone that isn’t interrupted by some type of marketing.

It’s enough to make you want to disconnect and go off the grid for a while.

Marketing Overload from the Marketer’s and Buyer’s POV

As a marketer, I understand the allure of having virtually unlimited opportunities to put your brand in front of as many eyes as possible. After all, raising awareness is Step 1 in branding.

But, as a person just trying to get through this crazy, modern life, constant inducements to part with my money sometimes leave me feeling targeted and drained. I’m overloaded by the marketing “opportunities” my chosen stores offer me. Stopping for gas will result in a text asking me how I enjoyed the service at Joe’s Mini-Mart before I’ve even left the parking lot. A simple conversation overheard by some kind of electronic assistant or app triggers unsolicited ads that are sometimes only peripherally related to the topic at hand.

It’s downright creepy sometimes, like being stalked or invaded by eavesdroppers.

Still, I understand.

It’s done in the name of marketing, of improving that all important UX and customer satisfaction factor that leads to repeat business, positive Yelp reviews, and a more favorable place in the SERPs. We do it in the name of research so we can understand our audience and provide better, more personal service. I get it.

But, when is it enough? Is it ever too much? Rather than tapping into the consumer zeitgeist, are we turning our customers off instead? Are our customers suffering from marketing overload?

The Dangers of Advertising Oversaturation

There are now more smartphones in use than there are people on the planet. As I write this, I have two active ones sitting next to me, one for business and one for personal use, and a growing pile of inoperable devices gathering dust in a drawer somewhere.

This constant electronic chatter and digital disruption takes a toll on us after a while. Even when we turn off our devices, we can’t escape the inducement to buy this or try that leaping from every bus shelter, shelf, and storefront.

In terms of marketing to the masses, it poses some real dangers from information overload. This is born out by studies conducted by the marketing research firm, Kantar, which found that targeted advertising is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, they found that:

– More than half of consumers polled resented advertising based on their past activity

– 54 percent are completely apathetic toward digital marketing in general

– Nearly 3/4 say they resent seeing the same ads repeatedly

What’s more, brand favorability levels have fallen from more than 50 percent to just under 25 percent in the 20-some years since digital advertising became the dominant marketing practice.

When people are bombarded with ad copy and feel that their every move is being tracked and measured, they begin to lose interest – and trust – in the brands that work so hard to win their business. They also start to tune out. According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, advertising ranks dead last in terms of consumer confidence, behind the telecommunications, banking, and energy industries. Too much information also impacts the brain’s ability to concentrate and reliably process new information, increases stress, and contributes to poor mental and physical health.

The news isn’t all bad. These same studies discovered that more than half of those surveyed appreciate ads that are directly relevant to where they are in their journey. They also enjoy personalized ads more than generic ones. So there’s a method to the madness and a way through marketing overload to the yellow brick road of advertising.

Striking the Right Balance Between Menacing and Marketing

It’s estimated that there are more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data generated every day, most of which is created passively as we go about our business. It’s the goal of every organization and marketing team to grab their share of that data and put it to use for advertising.

The trick is to do it with subtlety, finesse, and a little bit of tact. Here’s how:

  • Construct campaigns that break through the perception threshold in memorable ways, such as deploying tactics used in guerilla marketing.
  • Become involved in interests and activities that your audience already cares about. Integrate current events and trends into your campaigns, engage with the platforms your audience favors. Just make sure that this is done in a manner that is authentic, self-aware, and avoids tone-deafness.
  • Put the emphasis on relevance. Using the mass of available data, create not just an ideal persona, but a group of personas and target your ads to forge an emotional connection based on where each persona is on their journey. Rather than using stock images or models, use real customers in your ad copy. Deploy user-generated content like videos, images, testimonials, and reviews to provide social proof and gain trust.
  • Associate your brand with positive people, events, and trends in order to foster optimism and good will
  • Avoid activities and practices that generate a negative response, such as auto-played video content, pop ups, misleading ads, and copy that talks down to your audience.

Do the ins and outs of branding leave you feeling frustrated and confused? Level343 helps take the guesswork out of digital advertising. When you’re ready to level up your marketing game, get in touch with us to learn more about crafting effective, customer-focused brand strategies.