Media Fragmentation: Nightmare or Beautiful Dream?

Back in the good old days of advertising, marketing was simple. You’d whip up a T.V. and/or radio ad, broadcast it out to a huge audience and the dollars would roll in. It worked because there were few media choices and huge numbers of people tuning in to three channels of content. Fast forward to today and everything has changed – except the way most companies think about reaching people most likely to buy their products and services.

If advertising pioneer Leo Burnett woke today, he’d be dazzled by the sheer number of channels and competing messages people face every minute of every day. In fact, the marketing landscape is moving so fast, today’s environment is radically different from even 10 years ago.

According to a study by Nielsen, in 2006 the average household received 104.2 channels on T.V. alone. In the UK, there are over 13,000 media platforms (from newspapers to hot-air balloons) where advertising can be bought. So what does this have to do with small business marketing? Everything.

Small businesses face the same challenges at Proctor and Gamble – but with far smaller budgets. Their potential customers are difficult to reach using traditional methods alone (advertising, direct marketing, etc.). But more importantly, they are getting to a point of marketing saturation – as they are bombarded with more and more, irrelevant messages, they react by tuning ALL messages out. Gone are the days where a small business could run some ads, send some letters and garner enough response to build the business. The reality today is that small and large companies alike must shoulder a multi-media, integrated marketing strategy that combines some traditional tactics with new media channels. In other words, you need to be everywhere your customer is and expend no resources where they aren’t.

The Nightmare
This is easier said than done. Everybody wants marketing to be fun and easy. Every marketing director wants to create an hilarious viral video that collects millions of views and costs nothing. The truth is that implementing an effective marketing program is complex, multi-faceted activity that takes commitment, time and an appropriate level of investment. If you are not willing to face up to this reality, your marketing efforts will underperform and so will your company.

We’ve been sold a bill of goods by the marketing industry that promised fast results if we just hired them to build our website, design our logo, make that video, create an advertising campaign, or [insert clever tactic here]. Clients want to believe it’s really that simple so they write the checks. Nobody wants to tell the client that the truth of the matter is a bit more involved, requires a bit more time and (uh-oh…) costs money.
The Beautiful Dream
The good news here is that marketing can be a powerful force for growth. Even though the changing landscape makes the task more complex, the tremendous upside is being able to dramatically improve targeting and conversion rates while reducing waste spending. For example, an online pet pharmacy currently spends about 30 million dollars a year on advertising. The bulk of this sum is spent on television ads. While these ads work (the company reported a 14% increase in sales directly attributable to the advertising) there is tremendous waste as a significant portion of households who see the ads don’t own pets. In fact, the company reports that it’s cost of acquiring a new customer is over $33 each. Allocating dollars to an integrated on-line strategy that laser targets animal lovers would deliver fewer eyeballs but far greater conversations at a significantly lower acquisition cost. Increase sales and lower costs at the same time?! Sounds like a beautiful dream to me.

The key is to adjust your expectations and your methodology. Strive to understand how your target audiences interact with each other, find out where they gather (in real life or on-line) and facilitate those conversations. Speak in their language with authenticity. Understand their media habits and focus on providing valuable information in any and all media they prefer – whether print, broadcast, on-line, digital video, social media, whatever. Most of all make a commitment to sustaining the effort for the long term. Breaking through the clutter and breaking into the customer’s consciences takes more time than in days past. But even Mr. Burnett would be thrilled at the power of the new media landscape for it’s ability to target, track and deliver value.

Pete Monfre is an Austin-based marketing coach, consultant, media integration expert, producer and entrepreneur who works with businesses to develop marketing programs that actually work.

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