Only “You” Can Cut Through Advertising Clutter

A cityscape of various advertisements all saying "Look here" with one small ad in the centre saying, "Hi."

When it comes to cutting through the clutter, the savvy business knows that only "you" matter.

To start with, let me reiterate the fact that I really hate the term "content is king. "Content is king" is the rallying cry of the frustrated communicator, and the opiate of choice for management to placate its masses.

As I've said before, it ignores the most important factor of all – the quality of the one bearing the crown. And in today's world, quality counts more than ever.

Back in 2007, the New York Times ran a story with the title, "Anywhere the Eye Can See, It's Likely to See an Ad." Estimates today run anywhere from 250 exposures per day to over 600. And there are those who will claim selling messages run into the thousands of exposures per day.

Just think about your average day. You wake up to the radio (commercials). You may turn on the TV for the latest news or weather (ads). Or perhaps you pick up your phone or boot up the laptop to check Twitter or Facebook (promoted posts, sponsored ads). You could be one of the few remaining people that open the morning paper (ads, ads, ads.)

Maybe you get in the car and listen to the radio (ads) or you hop on the bus or metro (more ads). On your way to work you pass an assortment of street signs and billboards. You drive past large ads in bus shelters or those cheesy, "You just proved that signs work," bench ads. You see static ads and customized LED signs.

Oh, but I listen to music on the way in, you may say. Well, H.O.V.A.'s not alone in his love for lyrical shilling.

Throughout the day, you check your e-mail (ads) and do on-line searches (ads). You may receive text or on-line notifications from establishments you follow. Heck, even if you're sitting in your doctor's waiting room, you may find yourself staring blankly at a TV screen filled with targetted ads (if you're not flipping through the provided magazines – again, packed with ads).

Turn on the hockey game? Not just commercials, but ads along the boards. Sitcoms or drama more your flavour? You don't think that Pepsi can is product placement? From morning to night, we're inundated with advertising to the point that we often don't even notice it when it happens.

Now, there are those who will suggest that this is all intended to create subliminal triggers within our subconscious. And, while I'm no conspiracy theorist, I'm not going to lie and say I've never experienced some Pavlovian cravings due to the impact of advertising.

But with the growing – and necessary – focus on content strategy for business in their on-line and off-line efforts, the biggest question one must ask is, "How do I cut through the clutter?"

There are two simple answers to this:
1 – You may not be able to; and
2 – Any success has to come from focusing on the "What's in it for me?" message.

Let's go back to sports. In baseball, the most successful hitters fail way more often than they succeed. In fact, hitting your way onto base 30 per cent of the time is considered incredible. In hockey, the league's leading goal scorer (as of Jan. 16th) only lights the lamp on 13.8 per cent of his shots.

You can try to be clever; you can try to create something that will go "viral." But the fact of the matter is that virality is a crap-shoot and often the biggest ingredient to success is dumb luck.

Instead, the best way to cut through all the competing noise is to focus on speaking to your customer directly.

You can be in a crowd of 1,000 people, all speaking at once, and you can essentially reduce the din to white noise. But if you hear someone say your name (or, if you're a parent, you can often be fooled by the 'Daddy!' call), you suddenly focus on that voice and can pick it out of the crowd.

Same goes for your day to day branding. There are so many competing voices in the crowd that you have to focus on developing messaging that caters to your customers' specific needs.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the message you need to focus on is "What's in it for me?" If you have an offering that solves your customer's problem, they'll be interested. If you have a product that meets a need or desire, they'll be interested. And if you can convey that message in a way that speaks to them in a way that's natural, they'll respond.

Too often, businesses focus on what they want to say, as opposed to what their customers want to hear. You want to cut through the clutter? Speak to your customers, not at them, and you have a chance to have your voice heard.

Your thoughts? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Questions Answered

How do I cut through advertising clutter?

What's the best way to get my message heard?



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