Tuesday, May 5

Advertising Annoyance: Food For Thought

“It takes a lot of your prefrontal brain power to force yourself not to process a strong input like a television commercial. If you’re trying to read a book at the same time, you may not have the resources left to focus on the words.” — Robert Desimone, director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at M.I.T.

That's according to one of the experts in “Rapt,” a guide by Winifred Gallagher to the science of paying attention, as featured in The New York Times today. It's also a book I'll be adding to my reading list, but perhaps not for the reasons Gallagher intended.

The article shares some interesting insights about how our thoughts dictate our world views — we can obsess about problems, drive ourselves crazy by multitasking on e-mail and Twitter, or give the brain a bit of time to focus on and accentuate the positive — and lead to differing realities. While there is ample truth to that, our interest today is a bit more pragmatic in that it reveals some science behind "that guy" as described by Chris Brogan.

The concept was also the cornerstone of Seth Godin's argument that we need to reconsider the interruption model of advertising. He advocated permission marketing, which he defines as the consumer granting permission to be marketed to if they know what's in it for them.

"The interruption model is extremely effective when there's not an overflow of interruptions," Godin told Fast Company. "But there's too much going on in our lives for us to enjoy being interrupted anymore."

Godin is half right in that an overflow of interruptions leads to no one interruption being able to stand out. Where he is half wrong is that permission marketing doesn't necessarily require asking permission to market to people, especially if that permission might lead to future interruptions.

What companies might consider doing is listening. Consumers are very savvy in asking for what they want online. And, if your company is listening, you can provide them the answers that may introduce them to your product or service. You may even send them an e-mail from time to time, provided it has value.

Where companies often go wrong is in their own assessment of what's important. Even in a permission based model, especially those that bombard with e-mail, doesn't account for that moment that the company might have lost permission, or, in other words, lost permission or nurture nothing more than annoyance or aversion.

The tricky part for marketers is that no two people or products or services will ever be the same. Some products and services can support daily news and updates and some cannot. Some will capture public interest for a few days; others for month and years. Everything has a duration.

It doesn't require as much guess work as some might think. The public will often tell you when they've had enough or not. Listening to them and knowing when that might be is the difference between being "this guy" or "that guy," permission or not.

The only difference between being an annoying interruption, pleasant surprise, and invited engagement is much more dependent on an exchange, a dialogue, than we might have ever realized. After all, most companies would prefer to be a focus for awhile rather than an interruption, eventually shuffled off to spam whether you subscribed or not.


Lewis Green on 5/6/09, 7:58 AM said...

As always, excellent analysis. I wrote about "listening" yesterday--despite what some techies tell us, it's called inbound marketing and has nothing to do with SEO, SEM or social media. While those tools are useful, inbound marketing primarily happens in call centers and stores, where customers reach out to businesses.

By listening, gathering what they tell us, inputting that data, analyzing it and using predictive software, the next time the customer calls, we will better understand their wants and needs. When that happens, we can provide solutions to meet that needs. In sales, we call that cross-selling and up-selling. In marketing, we used to just call it marketing--now we call in inbound marketing. By any name, it is about listening and responding to what we hear.

If anyone wants to read my thoughts, they can be found at: http://bit.ly/21tGy.

Rich on 5/6/09, 9:02 AM said...


Excellent thoughts. It deserves a hot hot link.

You're very right. We've advised several clients that by listening, they can make adjustments to their marketing efforts (inbound or not), even if they do not engage in social media as it is currently defined.

Responses do not always have to be, let's say, Twitter to Twitter. They can take shape in any number of forms.

Where some companies and organizations seem to be confused is that they think anything bad said about them is bad, when in fact, it's just an opportunity to know what is being said, where the existing communication is failing, and sometimes how to improve it.

It IS about listening and responding to what we hear. Very excellent. Something I could easily follow up on in the near future.


Recruiting Animal on 5/6/09, 1:59 PM said...

Consumers are very savvy in asking for what they want online.

What does that mean exactly?

Rich on 5/6/09, 3:48 PM said...


It might vary on the product or service, but basically, consumers will talk about what they want to know or what they think or what experience they have, etc., with any number of things.

It's not any different than we do offline, except the conversation is public, semi-permanent, and generally includes more people than three friends standing around a barbecue.

They don't act as if there is a difference between online and offline communication, with the exception that they think it might have a greater impact than the reasons I mentioned above.

Communication hasn't changed. Where they do has. And the question we need to ask ourselves is ... are we listening or not. And if we are listening, is our communication failing or is the product?



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