Who is your audience? It’s been the most important question you can ask for effective advertising since the 20th century. However, that question has taken on a deeper meaning in the 21st century. If you’re asking why, just take a look at the shift in age demographics and in their technology adoption and media usage habits.
Differences in Where Audiences Consume Content
Consider the Silent Generation—those born before 1945. Only 43% of adults over 75 own any technology, and if they do, they tend to prefer a simple cell phone over a smartphone. They’re more likely to have a desktop or possibly a laptop, but tablet adoption is infrequent and eBook reader adoption is negligible.
If this generation is your audience, then the best place to deliver your message is through the old channels—TV, cable and radio. They’re still using these channels to consume content.
Now, consider their children. Baby Boomers are mixed adopters of technology. Some reflect the patterns of their parents, while others feel quite comfortable with smartphones and other mobile options. To target this generation, you may want to use both traditional marketing channels and the newer channels.
In contrast, Millennials—those born between 1977 and 1995—consume most of their content through the internet. They switch constantly between desktop computers, laptop computers or netbooks, tablets and smartphones to access the web. They own multiple devices as well—constantly coming up with new ways to use them to connect. An MP3 player, game console or e-book reader may no longer be a stand-alone unit. They’re finding their ways into social media and other venues as sources of content or shared experiences.
Millennials also tend to use their mobile devices for multiple activities. Taking pictures and capturing video. Getting online. Managing email. Gaming. Enjoying music. All this has implications for advertising strategy.
Why You Can’t Ignore Millennial Audiences
Unless what you’re offering only appeals to the shrinking Silent market, your advertising approach will have to fit Millennials and tech-savvy Baby Boomers. Consider the implications of this fact. Millennials now number more than Baby Boomers. Over the next 10 years Boomer numbers will continue to decline, while your primary buyers—Millennials, Gen Xers and Centennials will only increase in numbers and purchasing power.
What Less Is More Looks Like
Less does not look like the display ads we’ve been seeing ad nauseum since the advent of the web. Nor does it look like the special ad types your branded content studios produce, says Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus. He believes ads with the ability to go where your audience is and create a user experience there is the future, especially with younger audiences. He also believes the profits associated with online ads that take people back to a website that’s loaded with ads are disappearing.
User tolerance for advertising is at saturation point. (Consider the difference between the number of ads you see on Facebook today as compared to a year ago.) In order for anyone to pay attention to you, your ads must be relevant! Thus the more attuned to the audience your advertising becomes, the more successful it will be. And as a result, less looks like far more carefully chosen venues for advertising spend.
When you distribute your ads to too wide an audience, you may actually see a drop in response. Often, less reach can be far more effective at delivering higher ROIs. That initial narrower reach could generate a core of loyal evangelists for your brand. Who wouldn’t like ad spend to create an additional sales team?
Less is more also says reconsider trying to get everyone’s attention. Focus your ads on one thing and target audience at a time.
Finally, less is more embraces customer-friendly. Stop saturating your website with ads everywhere so the user experience is positive. If you do host ads, limit them to one obvious location. Huffington Post reports that 30% of a recent poll’s respondents said they actively avoid sites with banner ads.
It may take courage to rethink your advertising strategy, especially if you’re the type who only makes changes when it’s obvious they are necessary. However with your advertising strategy, you don’t want to wait until you’re feeling the pain of poor advertising ROI. Run proactive ongoing assessments. Timely advertising reviews mean less spend delivers more. What business doesn’t want that?
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