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(Multi)Channel Surfing: Reaching Niche Consumers in a Fragmented Media World

Insights // April 29, 2014

There’s no doubt that constantly improving technology is making our lives easier. More devices than ever allow us to connect with the internet to stream content and provide quick answers to our questions. Media innovations have allowed brands to expand their marketing efforts beyond traditional mediums. Outside of TV, radio and print ads, marketers can now choose from a plethora of social media platforms and methods of digital advertising to connect with their target audiences online.

With so many choices available, the problem becomes how to leverage these options in a way that provides the most value for your brand. The more channels you use the better, right? Not always. It is increasingly difficult and expensive to reach an audience in this age of new media, and there is more value to be had in a campaign that resonates perfectly with your target audience compared to a massive scale approach seeking only to have a presence on every channel.

The Trouble With Ads

When planning a marketing campaign for your brand, it’s important to note that as technology has gotten smarter, consumers have as well; and they will not be fooled into clicking on that sales pitch you tried to sneak into your Twitter feed. In fact, social media users have cited a brand’s social accounts being “too promotional” as a top reason for unfollowing them altogether. While they’d rather not see your ads, consumers are not so naive as to think that your brand is simply using Twitter to tell the world about their favorite breakfast food. They understand that at the bottom of every campaign is the desire to drive sales, but they want something more valuable than self-promotional content in return for allowing your brand to fill up their news feed.

And who could blame them? With every new media channel comes an opportunity for brands to bombard the user with endless promotions. Nearly every platform available on laptops, tablets, smartphones and E-readers has an ad-based revenue model and these ads, in addition to examples of traditional media (e.g. TV commercials, billboards and radio spots), are constantly being forced upon the consumers you’re trying to reach. Marketers will find that there are more ways than ever to convey a brand’s message to an audience, but the more channels, the more likely it is that your campaign will be lost in the masses.

A Shift in Power

Further complicating this issue is an overall loss of control of marketers over consumers. Audiences may be exposed to thousands of ads a day, but they are far from being captive. Social media channels allow their users to unfollow a brand to block its content, and features like DVR and satellite radio allow audiences to skip ads completely. New options in both medium and content have muddied the waters of traditional media by dividing the masses into differing niche communities. Rather than settling for a television show or book because of a lack of a better alternative, individuals are now able to choose which media to consume based on their interests.

Even platforms that are specifically designed to deliver ads have relatively low success rates when it comes to garnering attention. Google’s Adwords, which delivers a sponsored result based on the user’s search query, receives only 6% of clicks compared to organic results. Adwords’ ability to produce targeted, relevant results based on user needs is still not enough to draw most consumers, who prefer to place their trust in brands that have earned the right to rank in organic results – rather than those paying for placement.

Breaking Through the Noise

So, how can a brand reach an audience with scattered attention and little to no tolerance for advertising? Brands need to recognize that the people they are trying to reach are just that: people. Despite a distaste for advertising, consumers still have needs for products and services, and are willing to show loyalty to a brand they can trust when it comes to making purchases. Brands should consider each channel option as an opportunity to prove their worth to potential customers – not just another means to run an ad.

Choose a platform that suits their needs, not yours.

Rather than having a half-baked presence on a large number of platforms, brands should dedicate their resources to those that will best suit the needs of their target audience. This requires a lot of research on the part of the marketer to understand on which platforms their audience spends their time, and how having a presence on that platform would help to make their customers’ lives easier. You wouldn’t want to waste your money developing a Snapchat campaign if your target audience is mostly senior citizens. Take the time to learn their habits and devote your attention to those platforms.

Be available when they need you.

If you’re going to use multiple channels in your marketing strategy, at least one of them should be dedicated to doing something other than promotion. Social media, for example, has led to more open communication between brands and consumers, improving the ease and speed at which a brand can react to PR crises or respond to a customer service concern – a service greatly appreciated by their followers. We all make mistakes, but providing a channel through which issues can be easily resolved will go a long way with your customers.

Don’t just advertise, inform.

Today’s lack of a captive audience means that you need to give customers a reason to pay attention to your message. Whether it be by following you on social media or watching your ads, consumers aren’t going to engage with your brand if there isn’t something in it for them. Only by creating content that’s worthy of their time through humor, advice, or information, can you expect an audience to acknowledge your brand.

Give them something to talk about.

While other forms of advertising has become a challenge, word of mouth advertising could be seen as actually having been improved by the increase in new media. The social aspect of nearly every platform allows for more visibility into the interests and preferences of your friends. Even if a customer doesn’t speak directly to their friends about your brand, chances are they’ve chosen to endorse you on social media, signaling their recommendation to their own following. Treating your current customers well is the best way to convince them to speak fondly of your brand, whether it be through word of mouth or social endorsement.

In Conclusion

The increase in available marketing channels opens endless doors for tailoring your brand’s overall package and delivery. There are more opportunities than ever to specify and customize your mission to fit your desired audience and broaden your reach. With this, however, comes an overwhelming amount of advertorial noise and a desire to disconnect on the part of the consumer. This makes your task of standing out from competitors increasingly difficult and complex. It’s more essential than ever, then, to choose and manage your channels wisely and with finesse. Only then will you be in a position to capture your target consumers’ attention and build a relationship on a foundation of loyalty and trust.