Stop chasing consumers; join them in their fandom

Nicole GreeneAfter a long day is done, you attend the first night of a local music festival with friends. Like most people, you have your phone in hand, and as you look at the weather forecast you realise you need to buy rain boots for the festival tomorrow. You come home and watch the livestream of the night’s closing act. During the break, you don’t notice the ad for Amazon shoe deals — you’re too busy multi-tasking. When the livestream resumes, you hear the performer reminding attendees to bring their rain boots for tomorrow. You head to Amazon and type in “rain boots.”

This ad-avoidant, multi-tasking shopper isn’t just an imagined projection of a future scenario. Current data reflects this reality: not only do more than half of consumers engage in at least one “rigid” ad-avoidance measure, but 80% engage in “soft ad-avoidance behaviours” (multi-tasking, video on mute).

Yet marketers are still taking a traditional, personalised approach to advertising. The future of marketing is ads that don’t feel like ads, a hallmark for which consumers increasingly express a strong preference.  According to Gartner research, by 2028, 90% of CMOs will have shifted the majority of their targeted behavioural advertising budgets to integrated, affinity-based marketing.

Your customers are increasingly inaccessible
Big campaigns and creativity once ensured that marketers could reach a wide audience. But today’s consumers exist in increasingly fragmented spaces. The Herculean effort to connect the customer journey across channels has forced a reliance on data that will soon be insufficient, due to data privacy regulations and ad-avoidance tools.

Essentially, marketers are trying harder to reach consumers, and consumers are actively avoiding them in response.

Forward-thinking marketing depends on fan-centered marketing
Consumers are craving shared experiences. Rethinking the marketing mix to focus on shared experiences that are fan-centered is the way to tap into this.

Early examples of rethinking traditional advertising are anchored in the principles of putting the consumer first and surrounding their shared, fan-centered experiences. Consider the FIFA Women’s World Cup. To be part of the conversation, Google partnered with England’s Lauren James to promote its new “unblur” photography function, along with female empowerment. These early indicators provide a glimpse into future possibilities as creativity and technology combine to deliver more relevant and seamless experiences.

Personalised advertising will continue to have diminishing returns
Nearly all the content people consume online is supported by advertising. In addition to privacy and regulatory pressure, the ad industry faces strong economic pressure to adopt new, common rules for targeting and measuring ads. In short, while ads may technically get delivered, the impressions that CMOs consider indicative of a successful initiative aren’t making much of an impression at all.

It’s time to face the reality that there is a big gap between the real and perceived value of digital advertising.

Prepare for the shift now
Combining consumer understanding with new technology will allow marketers to integrate messaging into shared, fan-centered experiences in a way that was not previously achievable. The use of technology to identify and measure these opportunities is forcing marketers to make the pivot to seamless advertising that consumers will be receptive to.

CMOs must be intentional about how they plan to reach consumers. To be successful, stop chasing consumers and instead join consumers in their fandom.

Nicole Greene is VP analyst in the Gartner Marketing Practice

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