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A quick Google search of the words “relevance” and “marketing” turned up very few useful or informative hits. I found this surprising. Too much digital communication (email, banner ads, YouTube teasers, etc) fails to connect to the consumer in a meaningful, relevant way, which I classify as:

  • Emphasis on noise over meaningful communication (“spray and pray”)
  • Failure to truly understand the decision maker’s pain points
  • Absence of clear product differentiation in communication
  • No linkage between pain points and solutions offered by the marketer
  • Missing emotional connection with the decision maker

Relevance can be a squishy term because what may be relevant to the marketer is not necessarily relevant to the consumer. Too much digital content is devoid of the connection between the product (or service) and real customer needs. Advertising language is often lifted from the marketer’s vocabulary and not from the customer. That’s because no one has bothered to speak to the customer to hear what is relevant. The approach is “Here are the facts – the consumer will obviously get it!”

In digital, we hear about “performance marketing” and “brand marketing”, and these are certainly useful constructs in the business of optimizing digital spending, but more fundamentally we are missing major opportunities to demonstrate our role as “market makers” between customers and sellers. Marketers assume that all features or characteristics are relevant, when in reality too many are not.

Many advertisements on YouTube, for example, don’t connect because the narrator or situation fails to describe the product or link to an end-benefit (even after our attention exceeds the first 5-10 seconds). The same is true for linear or embedded ads on TV or radio. The branding is often held back until the very end. At that point, the advertising has either served to confuse the viewer or waste their time by failing to connect any relevant branding with the story that that was told in the previous 25 seconds. In many cases the storytelling or virtue signaling is more prominent than the brand itself. The consumer must process images, messages, and a story line into something personally relevant that then, in turn, must somehow be linked to a brand benefit. Automobiles, pharmaceuticals, and health care advertising frequently wander into these dead ends. This approach is a complete waste of ad dollars.

Conversely, some features are immediately relevant because they connect to obvious end-benefits. Amazon’s One-Click checkout feature or FreshDirect’s automatic re-ordering are great examples. They mimic the in-store checkout experience: I hand my credit card to the register clerk and don’t have to think again. Amazon and FreshDirect don’t have to talk about it: One-Click has multiple end-benefits: I don’t have to fumble for a credit card, enter a delivery address, and my window is already known. In short, I don’t have to think at all – and can get back to the more important work I was doing before I placed my order. Amazon and FreshDirect become directly relevant because they save me time – something of great value to us all.

Industry experts, the Advertising Research Foundation, and others all generally agree that content and creative account for as much as 70% of the impact of advertising. Too many of us are focused on the shiny object of ROI and targeting, when in reality what consumers want is something that is relevant and meaningful and that makes their lives better.

Don’t forget this fundamental tenant of advertising: do your research, uncover unmet needs, and make it relevant!

Surveys & Forecasts, LLC