I’m teaching an online course in Advertising Copywriting for FIT which is part of the State University of New York. For those of you who don’t know what copywriting is the easiest way to explain it is that it’s a sales pitch without the human salesman.
Copywriters sell products, companies, imagery, personalities, causes, movements, virtually anything that requires the recipient of the message to take an action after absorbing the communication. We do it on TV, over the radio, in magazines, through emails, Instagram posts, Facebook banner displays, mail delivered to your home, on billboards, invasive marketing, almost anywhere a consumer can receive a message.
It’s a tough, tough business. Everyone thinks they can sell. Heck, if you’ve seen a commercial or print advertisement or an ad next to your Facebook posting of your latest cooking concoction you most likely think you can do it, too. And you probably can. As to whether you can do it effectively so people actually do respond to it — ah, that’s a whole other proposition.
Any business that spends money on advertising and marketing expects one thing: ROI, Return on Investment. For every penny spent on marketing a business expects to see at least two pennies returned in terms of sales. That’s the bottom line.
The big question facing a business used to be “where should I market?” Digital media and particularly social media have made targeting a specific consumer for your specific product has been made much more efficient thanks to algorithms and a bunch of other technical stuff I don’t claim to understand. Today, it is much, much easier to reach the exact demographic and psychographic profile that is a perfect fit for your product.
BUT…and this is the big, big problem facing marketers today…more and more consumers today are totally turned off by marketing messages. People, especially young people, no longer watch TV for two reasons. One, they want to be able to watch the TV programs they want when they want. And two, they don’t want to be interrupted and bogged down by watching commercials.
It’s not called “streaming” viewing and listening for nothing. A stream flows. It’s something you can float down in peace. Commercials are like logs or rocks in the middle of the stream that you have to stop and navigate around. They make the experience less than tranquil. The viewing consumer knows it and they don’t want to be bumped off course when they’re watching/flowing with their programs.
So what should a business do? Not market their products because consumers are bothered by marketing messages? Look for new places to put their marketing messages that consumers won’t find bothersome?
Shouldn’t consumers have the right to be made aware of products and services that can improve or enhance their lives? Of course! But what do you do when consumers don’t want to hear good news?
Imagine you have a new widget and you put out a message that says, “Oh boy, are you going to be happy. I have a new widget!” And the response from consumers is “Don’t tell me about it. Don’t you realize you’re interrupting my binging or twittering or social media plunging?”
I’ve been asking experts in advertising, marketing, social media, traditional media, consumers of all ages, and trust me no one has a rational answer to this dilemma.
Fact: A business needs to market in order to grow and thrive.
Fact: A consumer needs to receive marketing messages in order to get the best deal and benefits possible so that business can deservedly grow and thrive.
But what happens when you are trying to do all this in an era of consumer doubt and distrust due to over-promise, traditional-digital-social-media clutter, and marketing message mediocrity?
Honestly, I don’t have a clue.
And that boys and girls is a very true story.