Why consumers don’t care about (most) brands

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Every year, brands spend over $ 600 billion (and more) to convince us to buy their products. Yet, as consumers, we have become oblivious to most advertisements. This excerpt from Branding Hacks – How to Build Brands by Responding to Consumers’ Quest for Meaning aims to help CEOs understand why consumers don’t care about (most) brands and most ad campaigns fail.

It’s chaos

On average, we consume over 13 hours of media per day and check our phone 96 times, or once every 10 minutes. We spend two hours and 24 minutes a day on social media and upload 995 photos to Instagram every second. We want to see the next post, the next photo, the next vlog; so as not to miss the next bike course, the next meetup, the next date. Along this journey, brands try to convince us to buy their products through advertising, an industry that is expected to reach over $ 769 billion in revenue by 2024. This media overload has made us unresponsive to most advertisements. We are overwhelmed with too many choices and end up not being able to choose anything.

We don’t care [most] brands

Let’s be clear from the start: we’re all looking for meaning, not brands. That is, we interact with others, buy products and experience things to resolve this tension between who we are and who we want to be or how we want to be seen. Brands that are successful are those that act as shortcuts to unwind these tensions and help us find meaning. In this process, the brands themselves have made sense.

Brands that do not help us resolve these tensions fall apart. Because we easily forget these brands, they have to constantly remind us of what they are selling. In advertising, we call this “increasing frequency of exposure”. By reminding us often, these brands hope it will be remembered the next time we visit the store. Ultimately, this leads us to view their products as commodities. That is, we will buy them for their functional benefits, but we will switch to any competitor as soon as we find a cheaper or better alternative.

Our disbelief in brands is also a generational issue. Baby Boomers are a more brand-loyal group who have grown up with fewer choices, fewer advertising channels, and television as their only true media display. In contrast, more than half of millennials don’t care about brands at all. A 2018 study by Cadent Consulting Group shows that 51% of millennials don’t really have a preference between private labels and national brands. This only propels the growth of the private labels of Trader Joes, Aldi, Amazon and others, which now rival national brands.

Purchases are increasingly driven by perks like free shipping or lenient return policies, rather than the brand itself. This is why store brands are growing three times faster than branded products. In response, retailers have evolved their store brand products to make them indistinguishable from those of domestic players. Target, for example, has rolled out dozens of its own products and invested heavily in branding and design.

Conventional advertising is dying

Unlike previous generations, today’s consumers can access a large amount of content without seeing a lot of traditional ads, if any. Consumers ignore ads, ignore them or even block them by using ad blocking software to keep digital advertising out of their day. In 2019, around 26% of internet users used ad blocking software to avoid being disrupted by digital advertising. Ad blocking is not a fad: the use of ad blocking software is increasing steadily and impacting all devices (desktop, laptop, mobile and tablets) and publishers.

This is frightening news for the publishing industry. Newspaper and magazine circulation is plummeting, as is advertising revenue. So publishers have relied on digital ads to keep them afloat. However, about 26% of US readers use ad blockers, causing US publishers to lose nearly $ 35 billion in revenue in 2020 alone.

In response to this phenomenon, some publishers like Facebook are investing in technologies to block ad blockers. These programs make ad blockers unnecessary, allowing publishers to serve ads even to people who have ad blocking software installed. It starts a cat-and-mouse game between software developers blocking software that block ad blocking software, asking who is the real beneficiary.

Why most advertising campaigns fail

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the problem is that I don’t know which half. “—John Wanamaker (1838-1922), American merchant

Despite all the technology and “advanced analytics,” not much has changed since Wanamaker made this statement over 100 years ago. Here’s why most marketing efforts fail:

Most marketing and advertising managers live in a bubble, disconnected from the actual consumers they are targeting.

Marketers often live in big cities like New York and San Francisco, where they make more money and consume more media than Central America. Research commissioned by ThinkBox shows that marketers overestimate the time people spend watching videos on various devices by a factor of 18. They also overestimate the time spent on video-on-demand (VoD) devices by 10 times. ). These same marketers spend three times more time on social media or VoD devices than regular people.

It turns out that advertising professionals hate ads too. Jason Grimm, co-founder of Pressboard interviewed people working in advertising agencies, advertising departments and advertising publications about their own behavior towards advertisements. Twenty-seven percent of these ad professionals use ad blockers at home (using an ad blocker at work would be cheeky), 79% ignore ads when watching content via DVR, and 98% stream content without advertising. Much like their “target audience”, they prefer to trust their friends to educate them on products, as well as on social media, articles and emails. “We may be the only industry actively avoiding the product we make,” says Grimm. “I doubt organic farmers eat cage-raised GMO hormone-fed chicken for dinner. Or that dentists have stopped brushing their teeth. If even the people doing the ads are avoiding them, is it reasonable to hope that consumers won’t? “

In conclusion, the C-suite must prevent its brands from forcing more disruptive ads to an already exhausted audience. The real solution for advertisers is to connect with people on an emotional level and support their search for meaning.


Written by Dr Emmanuel Probst.

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