In the 1920s, the business tycoon, an Industrialist, who was into manufacturing cars in America said something about advertising,
Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.
Today, after 100 years, the Internal Combustion Engine itself is getting replaced by Electric motors. 100 years later, the idea of car manufacturing has changed leaps and bounds, the fundamental idea of fabricating the car cage itself has changed and 100s of other things within the car has changed. If you see the first car today, you wouldn’t say it’s a car.
100 years later, the practice of mass media advertising has not changed a little, it got worsened.
Those ages were advertising is marketing. Focus on copywriting and grab that moment of attention. The creativity in the ad copy, choice of Imageries, the choice of words and the number of times you hit on your audience’s face mattered. It was called Industrial marketing.
Then, for people, Newspapers were the primary mode of knowing current affairs. That too, World wars were happening around, newspapers were simply inevitable to a common man. It was simply a poor thing to not read the Newspapers. Everyone had liked to read the morning Newspaper hot from the press.
One more thing to note on the ad copies was that they have not used pricing as an attractive element. Sometimes, some businesses, Yes.
Today you can neither see anything creatively nor without prices on the ad copy especially by a Real estate company’s typical Full page ad.
Later, Radio came in, Television came in – the advertising continued there, for the mass.
The assumption was, “everybody is my customer”.
TV commercials came in and made people die to make something interesting and broadcast it on Television. The pressure to grab the audience attention helped make fantastic commercials by agencies and brands.
So mass media advertising thrived. Primetime, TRP, and a lot of other things to make more people see your ad had garnered importance. The idea was, the more the eyeballs, the more the sales. So, advertising continued at an unimaginable pace and in volumes.
No questions asked. The only thing that mattered was the budget allocation. Marketers reputation was based on the budget they got allocated, the more they were able to spend, the more their value got. All because it worked. There was no question whether it was right or wrong.
Today also, some people strongly follow this formula and stand by it.
Outdoor advertising was there, even before Mass media advertising. Billboards, Electronic boards, LED neon light boards, Wallscapes, Truck side ads, fleet media, Driven media, Wrap advertising, Billboard bicycle, and whatnot, there were 100s of ideas that were brought in. The fundamental idea remained the same – How to expose yourself to more people? Eyeballs were simply the thing to look for.
In September 2006, São Paulo passed the Cidade Limpa (Clean City Law), outlawing the use of all outdoor advertisements, including on billboards, in transit, and front of stores. ~WikiPedia
Today, one can easily say that forced attention is no longer working. It does hit some coincidences in a few instances, for so many reasons in very few industries. (A diagram is coming below).
This is what Seth Godin – today’s demigod of marketing says, permission-based marketing. A business has to earn the right from their potential customer to ask for a sale.
Fast forward to today. Everybody’s hand ends with a screen display. Every office is having a screen, at least in their board rooms and meeting rooms. Every home is having a screen that was much bigger than 10 years ago and connected with hi-speed Internet. Sometimes, all Bedrooms are having a screen and the hall too. In some homes, a mini theatre is present with posh couches and wide screens in varied sizes.
There is no dearth of information. Anybody can learn about anything, it’s a matter of interest and people are interested to know in what matters to them.
Every screen is connected and everyone has preferences in what they’d like to go about with their screen time. When I say they prefer, it means they decide on what to watch and on which platform to spend their time.
As a marketer, there are 2 options we can draw upon, put ads on where they all spend their time or publish content and make them come to you. Yes, there are a lot of differences between both and I’m going to get into the details below.
1. Customer journey
Online ads seem to be the easiest way, so, many organisations jump on to it and are ready to pay. This is part of paid media.
The idea behind such a type of ad is, someone sees this ad and they are going to click it, and likely enquire about the project.
Discovery —-> Sales
Is your product a transactional one? Like a digital product or a CPG product? NO. Then why do you think this would work?
[Please remember, FMCG and D2C brands have started creating content in the form of videos and maintaining their
brand video channel on YouTube actively. This helps their other performance campaigns. In the connected world, your audience matters,
however small or big in numbers they may be. We’ll talk more about the audience part below].
The point is transactional businesses have started creating content, ie., transactional businesses are not any more transactional businesses. They need to build their brand as quickly as possible.
Let’s continue breaking down the idea behind the above such ads,
As we saw above, it was about taking your audience from
Discovery → Sales
But your customer travels in a different journey than what you expect them to or rather impose them to follow. Your customer (to be) have many options now, to be honest – they have more control in what they can do. You have the option to help them make better purchase decisions by helping them through your content.
In Today’s world, they travel from
Discovery → Awareness → Consideration → Sales
Even when we simplify, your customer’s ideal journey goes through this framework, C–> B–> A
A brand must fulfil the gap (Awareness+Consideration) stages through the right content that are worthwhile for them. I’ve written a separate post on content that is to be Effective or Efficiency centric? I recommend having effective content first then moving to the efficient part. Different visual content gets posted on many brands’ social media handles with Happy labours day wishes and likewise, because it is cheap, and are not going to be effective. The content has to be useful to your audience. And there are tons of opportunities to create useful content.
Coming back to the Customer journey, Expecting your customer to jump 2 stages from Discovery to Sales is expecting a 20 metres jump from your customer and is detrimental to your marketing efforts.
You can run paid campaigns to address the discovery part then take them to platforms where they spend time through content and make them consider you through your content. Finally, let them reach the sales stage.
Marketing functions best when it’s a cohesive, strategic, thought thorough process.
2. Let’s see the performance part of the paid ads,
The performance of the paid ads and for which segment it works, how it works is something that demands a very long detailed post and there have been a few articles I have written and a few more articles are below from other sources.
The crux of online ads and their performance is,
- About 6% is the CTR of the best performing ad set ie., Search ad set. Other ad types like display, banner and video ads are much lesser ~3%
- Ads work for Digital products, E-commerce and transactional base businesses, especially with the right remarketing approach.
- I also believe that the majority of 6% is from the Digital products and e-commerce segment(1) not much from the Real estate segment.
- Online Ads work only at 2 places. One those who consumed your brand content and the other, those who are in the network of your existing customer set.
Here is a pyramid diagram that depicts where online ads work.
Despite the idea about the limited places where your ads work, the Real estate industry is one of the industries that rely fully on Paid ads. Offline and Online – all of it are paid media. No other industry can afford to rely this heavily on paid media.
The world is paying to consume good content,
- Substack has 500000 + (five hundred thousand) customers.
- Substack has 5% – 10% paying customers. You may make your calculations about the total readers.
- Anybody can publish content on substack, the moment you make it as pay and read model, substack gets a small commission.
- Netflix is an adless platform that makes its users enjoy their content after paying
From a business perspective, all of these above stats least matter but these 2 points could be the important takeaway,
“Non-ad based media models are on the rise”
“Quality content is welcomed, consumed and will be shared in their peer groups”
Substack numbers source: Brian Dean
There is Medium, news magazines, Journalism houses, educational institutes that have already adopted paid subscription models that cater content without ads.
Also, take any OTT platform, they create content that is their primary business model.
Even YouTube has a model to avoid ads. When you pay and become a member, you get rid of all the ads. This is something to think about. As a platform it lets you publish content and as a platform user, it lets users pay and enjoy content without ads.
Below is part from his book and the author of 19 Marketing bestsellers,
The internet is the first mass medium that wasn’t invented to make marketers happy. Television was invented
to hold TV ads, and the radio was invented to give radio ads a place to live.
But the internet isn’t built around interruption and mass. It’s the largest medium, but it’s also the smallest one. There is no mass, and you can’t steal attention for a penny the way your grandparents’ companies did.
From the book “This Is Marketing” by Seth Godin
Indeed the Internet is the smallest one from a business perspective. Your content and your fan base(alone) matter.
The world of marketing had evolved to be a different place from ad centric to content-centric. You have to publish content and attract your audience.
In a parallel world,
Kevin Kelly wrote in 2008 about 1000 true fans for creators,
“To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.”
In 2020, Li Jin – an angel investor at a16z rewrote it to 100 true fans but stuck with creators and kept the revenue the same as that of 1000 true fans.
How I see is, first, 100 fans for every business
Every business should see itself as a big creator(their agency, internal team) and start with a goal of earning the first 100 fans or first 1000 fans albeit not having any intention to make their fans pay for their content but in the process of making them as their brand ambassadors.
When you start rolling out content, you start attracting audiences who are interested in your products/services. You roll out more quality content, they slowly become your fans looking forward to your content.
You continue the process and they become your brand ambassadors, or they become your customer. Both are ideal goals for a brand. In the connected world, your customer is supposed to be your brand ambassador. Whereas your fan may or may not be your customer but they are your brand ambassador recommending your product in their network and bringing in customers and that is perfectly all right.
It is to increase your fan base that is an ideal objective for good marketing. And that essentially works as a standalone model and in favour of your other paid campaigns in the long run. This is where your 100 fans come into place.
The goal doesn’t end with 100 true fans, it scales up further based on the ticket size, size of your business and the growth numbers you have planned to achieve from 100 to 1000 – 10K to 10 million and of course based on your business vertical.
Earning fans is effortful work for brands and is very much possible through quality content.
In today’s connected world, see these businesses from different industries. They create brand content and go crazy about distributing it through paid media to make their audience consume it. They are doing it right and doing it with grace.
The reason why all the above brands have built their content repository and some distribute their content through paid ads is, that sales become a natural process. You start to get inbound queries. Your content starts to work for you. Your performance campaigns start to perform because of the content you have accumulated.
The thumb rule is, the more paid ads, the more the content. Keep it at a ratio of 50:50. Now it stands at 100:0 for most of the real estate companies in India. When you do well with content, the percentage of paid ads can be reduced but that is a long shot as of today.
Start building your content repository, by building a blog site or your brand video channel or an ebooks repository or even better all of it. So that all your performance campaigns work for you, not instantly, but definitely.
Now, that we have seen the state of paid ads and the necessity of content, how can we adapt content successfully? Like, any other transition, you have to continue the marketing activities you currently do and parallelly start creating content. As we accumulate the volume of content, slowly you can reduce the paid media spend or continue using it to deliver content.
Talk to us to adapt to a sustainable, compounding marketing approach, that fuels business growth.