At the young age of 24, I sometimes can’t believe how much things have changed over the last ten years. In 2009, my family received the daily newspaper, from which I would take the advertisements to see what products were being promoted. We used to receive catalogs and printed circulars in the mail, so of course I would skim over each and every page. I watched cable tv, where I would see a plethora of advertisements for kitchen goods to construction materials or even just general commercials for retailers like Target or RC Willey. Every time my family would visit Costco, I loved taking a printed circular to look through as my mom dragged me down every aisle for no apparent reason.
While these channels of advertising are still relevant, I find myself in the shoes of most millennials. I do not receive mailed circulars, nor do I receive or buy a daily newspaper. I subscribe to streaming services instead of cable tv. I infrequently see a store associate handing out circulars and some stores produce online only advertisements. The future is here, and I must admit, I love my phone as do many other millennials, Gen Zers, and even a fair number of Gen Xers. The digital ad age is upon us and it’s not slowing down. As of 2015, individuals in the US were exposed to approximately 4,000 – 10,000 ads each day. However, this number has surely grown with the increased activity online, scrolling through sponsored and unsponsored content all day long.
Out with the Old, In with the New
Why does this distinction matter? Before, we were all exposed to the generic advertisements; unique only in what television program we were watching, what stores wanted to promote on a regional scale, and what circulars we received in the mail. Now, consumers have more control over what advertisements we see, whether we are aware of it or not. Let’s take social media, for example. According to Instagram’s website, the social media platform uses ‘information about what you do on Instagram and Facebook … and on third-party sites and apps you use.’ While you may see the same ad as someone else, the series of ads you are shown on a daily basis are unique to your social media behavior and engagement, all thanks to an algorithm.
On a weekly basis, I research floor care and laundry products, tracking how the markets are changing in terms of pricing, promotions, placements, and products. I check manufacturer websites, retailers’ e-commerce sites, media publications, and social media pages, among other things. As you might guess, the various social media platforms think they have me pinned, flooding my feeds with laundry and floor care sponsored ads. While I am not in the market to buy a vacuum or a laundry set, it’s interesting to see how brands adjusted their marketing strategies in this new age.
The advantage of these sponsored ads extends far beyond simply promoting a product. These so-called dynamic ads allow brands to include a “Shop Now” or “Learn More” link, driving consumers directly to a site where the items can be purchased or researched in further detail. Having said that, as a Market Analyst, this added feature and type of promotional activity can be extremely difficult to track, as it varies by user and is dependent on a predictive algorithm. One might think that because you follow every floor care brand, you would have a higher likelihood of seeing floor care sponsored promotions, but this isn’t necessarily true, making it all the more difficult to understand how various platforms determine which advertisements to include in each user’s feed.
However, I am in a unique position to understand the mixed marketing landscape. gap intelligence tracks retailers’ printed and online circulars as part of the data service provided to our clients. I often see brands offering competitive discounts through sponsored promotions, placing manufacturers’ websites in direct competition with retail and online partners. Specifically, during major sales events, such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Black Friday, it has become more apparent that floor care and laundry brands are increasingly differentiating their marketing strategies. Now why is this important? Brands want the best possible return on investment (ROI) for their marketing spend. Sponsored promotions allow brands to spend less money on generating new ad content, while targeting the ‘correct’ and most relevant consumer groups, increasingly the likelihood of driving sales.
Vacuums, a smaller household appliance, will be more greatly affected by sponsored promotions as customers do not always need to see the product before purchasing. Conversely, sponsored promotions for laundry machines are far less likely to drive sales at that time, instead increasing the visibility of various models leading to an eventual purchase. These are two different strategies: one aims to drive immediate sales through online websites, while the other aims to increase product/brand awareness.
The Real Power of the Influencer
Outside of brands paying for sponsored promotions through their personal social media accounts, influencers are increasingly utilized through marketing campaigns. Influencer sponsored types of advertisements are successful at increasing awareness for one key reason: they provide trustworthy and candid content to their niche audience. And while I use niche to describe the viewers, these influencers can reach anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of consumers that are part of various brands’ consumer demographic.
Influencer advertisements are the modern version of television commercials, reaching lots of individuals with just a single post. Of the two industries that I track, I see the most influencer marketing for floor care products, with Dyson and iRobot regularly leveraging the social media community. At the launch of Dyson’s V11 series vacuums, they invited hundreds of prominent influencers that posted from a live event, increasing awareness of the new products to their millions of followers. Alternately, iRobot reposts content shared by its influencer partners, using the videos and images on its social media pages. More recently, a video created by the influencer family, @theholdernessfamily, featured Hoover’s new Blade+ and associated ONEPWR products. Hoover has used this influencer video to advertise its product line on multiple platforms including on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, as well as in an email promotion offering 25% with the use of a promo code.
That is where influencer accounts come into play. Users decide who and who not to follow, putting them in control of what content they see in their feeds. Generally, consumers with similar interests will choose to follow the same people, making it easy for a brand to determine which influencers will provide them the greatest return on investment, usually by the influencers’ number of followers. Previously, advertisements lacked a certain level of sincerity, familiarity, and trustworthiness. This is changing, specifically with the use of influencers and their ability to transform promotional content into an honest, dependable review and recommendation.
When Marketers Know You Better than You Know Yourself
So what does this all mean for the consumer and what else can we expect when it comes to new techniques to market products and drive sales? To start, expect to see more of what you like and less of what you don’t like. Consumers who regularly use social media platforms are giving the platforms a greater level of information, allowing them the ability to better curate each user’s unique ad experience. However, that is based on an algorithm and while users control what they view, they don’t have final say on what ads they actually get to see. Outside of the current strategies, using sponsored promotions, leveraging influencer accounts, and driving attention to the brand’s social media profiles, marketers must continue to seek out ‘the next best thing’. With data leaks and breaches, some consumers have and continue to delete social media profiles, moving onto the next up-and-coming platform that appears more trustworthy.
While there is no guarantee that Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram will fizzle out anytime soon, here are some websites that look to creep in at a time where transparency is paramount:
- Vero – Ad free, algorithm free platform that gives users complete control over media feed
- Tik Tok – Short-form mobile videos
- Kik – a chat platform designed for teens
- Steemit – Social media platform that awards users with cryptocurrency depending on the votes for each piece of content
For more than 16 years, gap intelligence has served manufacturers and sellers by providing world-class services monitoring, reporting, and analyzing the 4Ps: prices, promotions, placements, and products. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 619-574-1100 to learn more.