Peering into the future of digital advertising


The Future of Digital Advertising

Digital Marketing Map – 2015

Digital Marketing Map

Map courtesy of Hallam Internet.

The Big UK Content Marketing Benchmarks Study

The Big UK Content Marketing Benchmarks Study 2015

Personalisation is not working

Businesses are using the wrong kind of personalisation

Dear First Name…’ve had an email like that, I am sure. Some hapless email marketer fails to enter the right data and you end up being called “First Name” or some such bland tag.

The trouble for most internet marketers is that they haven’t got much to go on. Often, all they collect is your name and your email address. The only thing they can use to make any emails personal is your name. However, even though we all love being called by our own name, it turns out that it is not perceived as “personal”.

The fact is, we expect to be called by our own name when someone is writing to us. So it isn’t “personalisation”. Indeed, new research shows that in terms of return on investment using a person’s first name is towards the bottom of the list of effectiveness.

Chart showing effectiveness of different kinds of personalisation

Indeed, the research shows that using someone’s name is the most popular method of personalisation, but it is one of the least effective methods of achieving a return.

Much better at gaining business is using purchase history or personal preferences. In other words, you make more money out of deeply personalising than you do if you are merely superficial.

What this research implies is that you have to collect more data about your website visitors and then use it to provide them with something that is centred upon their personal interests. Amazon is a great example of this. Log in and what you see will be different to every other person who has logged in. Amazon uses your behaviour, your purchase history, your wishlists and other expressions of interest to deliver something much more personal than merely saying “Hello First Name”.

It all points to the need to collect more data about people other than just their name.  However, if you are collecting information using an online form, the more fields you have the less likely people are to fill it in. So you need to be able to collect information in other ways.

You can:

  • Manually add data after phone calls or face-to-face meetings
  • Integrate CRM data with your web data
  • Track logged in people using analytics

Alternatively, you can narrow your niche so tightly that everything you provide is already deeply personalised to a subset of people sharing the same interests. Frankly, this is the easiest way to go for many businesses. Plus it has search engine benefits too.

For instance, if you provide accountancy services to small businesses a website describing what you do is of general interest but not personalised enough to attract people. But what if you have a website for accountancy services for independent florists? That is much more personalised to their needs. Those florists won’t even care that you have a pretty similar site on accountancy services for independent shoe shops, or another for independent funeral directors.

There are two ways to achieve deep personalisation:

  1. Sophisticated and complex data systems
  2. Highly specific niche websites

For many businesses the niche route is going to be the easiest and the most cost effective.

What this new research shows, however, is that you cannot ignore the personalisation route. The more you make what you deliver focused on the precise interests of your visitors and email recipients, the more you will get a return.

Online publishers told to STOP running adverts

Annoying advertisements costs websites more money than they bring in

Online AdvertisingOnline advertising is a feature of many websites. They are a cost-effective way for companies to sell their wares because they do not pay for the advert until someone clicks, or until they reach a certain number of views. Unlike print advertising, where your advert may never be seen, online advertising can be much more easily measured. As a result, advertisers are keen to use digital advertising as they can see the impact of their campaigns as well as target people more individually.

The problem for advertisers is that most online advertising is ignored. Even if we are aware of it, we don’t usually act on it. Less than 10% of users of Google, for instance, click on a sponsored link. Several studies of online display advertising have shown that the average click-through rate is less than half a percent of all visitors. The fact is, almost all of us ignore online advertising most of the time.

But the advertisers are not worried. Firstly, they are not paying if we do not click. Secondly, even if we do not click we have awareness of their brand or product. Advertisers are perfectly happy if we do not click because they are increasing their brand awareness – for free…! What could be better than that?

Well, what an advertiser really wants is an advert that is seen and acted upon and which boosts their brand all at the same time. They also want their advert to have an air of respectability – they spend a long time selecting the right outlets for their adverts, making sure that the website has the right target visitors, for instance.

But new research shows that this is the crux of the problem. It appears that people are failing to recall websites when they contain annoying adverts. The very thing that advertisers are seeking – positive association with good websites – is being destroyed by those adverts.

Worse than this, the authors of the research, published by the American Marketing Association, are suggesting that website publishers which run annoying adverts run the risk of reducing their income overall. The money raised from publishing the adverts does not outweigh the loss of income from annoyed readers. In other words, it is more costly to run adverts than not to run them.

Coming from such a major and respected organisation that is a powerful message. Being told that as publishers you run a massive financial risk if you carry annoying adverts is going to mean that many will stop carrying such material. And that will mean an issue for brands and the advertising industry.

The research does define “annoying”, though. It suggests that animated adverts, those from companies with a poor reputation and adverts with  poor design were all annoying. But if you ask people they find most advertising annoying.

What does this mean for website owners? It means you are likely to make more money overall if you stop carrying adverts. Besides, almost none of your visitors look at them anyway.

How simple is your message? LinkedIn is too complex

Simplicity of brand message is connected to company performance

A businessman writing Keep It Simple on a screen. Business Concept.The chances are you have been to a business networking meeting and asked a newcomer “what do you do?” only to get some lengthy description of a wide range of services, leaving you none the wiser as to what their business is about. You have probably been to trade shows and exhibitions and been attracted to visit some stand, only to walk away wondering what the company really does.

Harvard Business Review reckons you should be able  to sum up your business in six words or less. Can you do that?

Research conducted by Siegel+Gale, a brand growth company, shows that there is a clear link between simplicity of brand message and the financial performance of the company. They have tracked hundreds of brands over the past five years and researched opinions about them in over 12,000 people in 8 major nations, including the UK. The brands deemed “simple” by the consumers outperformed other brands and also massively increased their value compared with the FTSE100 or the DOW.

For some businesses the results prove that simplicity is key. Aldi, the low-cost German-based supermarket, comes out as the “number one” brand, for the second year in a row. Why? Because its message is simple and doesn’t vary – good quality at low prices with no frills. Aldi beat Google into second spot. But Google gets there because when you use it as a search engine it could not be simpler – type in what you want to find out and get the results.

Down at the bottom end of the ranking, however, comes LinkedIn at 84th out of 90. The reason is because we are confused as to what we are really supposed to use LinkedIn for. Indeed, it is complex – is it a place for recruitment, for publishing your updates, for having a personal profile or a company one, or is it a forum where you discuss things with people? Count yourself lucky – LinkedIn abolished several older features such as “Answers”, which added another layer of complexity to its system. You may well have a LinkedIn profile, but do you actually use it and gain money from it? Only a tiny, tiny proportion of people using it do. Most people “have a profile” and leave it at that. Why? Because it is so confusing.

And who is the most complicated brand in the list? That “award” falls to AXA the insurance company, for having an extremely complex legalistic approach that takes people ages to wade through. However, AXA is in good company; in terms of industry performance, the least simple industry is insurance. The clearest brands of all were mostly in retail – you know what you are getting when you visit most stores. Low down on the list of industries was social media – too many complex systems and overlapping ideas. It seems that social networks just keep adding features, because they can. That leaves us confused.

Ask yourself “what is Facebook?” Is it a place to chat with people, or a place to promote a business? Is it a place to share pictures, or (thanks to the latest update) a place to visit web pages? Perhaps it is also place to watch videos – or, there again, is it a place to run a poll or a survey?  Do Facebook know? It can do all of these things and more, but with each new change it just leaves us confused.

So here is the challenge which emerges from the Siegel+Gale study: can your online business be communicated within a second or two – the time it takes to say six words? If it can, you have probably gained attention. If it cannot, you are wandering into the territory of confusion.

Consider popular websites like the BBC news site – it has a clear and simple message, “read this”. Google similarly has a simple message “search here”. So does Amazon – “buy this”. Does your business really gets its message across so simply people can get it in a second? Or is your website like that person you met a networking event, providing loads of rambling detail with no real clarity as to what it is you actually do?