One customer at a time


More customer-service. More honest and open interaction are the new ways to advertise.

How many messages can we handle? In the race to monetize all the new media channels, we are about to find out. Add to that the proliferation of offline advertising opportunities, and there will be thousands of new messages coming at you every day. How can a company cope with this competition for attention?

Marketers and business owners can already buy ad space in magazines, newspapers, radio and TV. Billboards are all over the place, too. And for the most part, we are all used to seeing advertising in elevators and over the urinals in the men’s room, on golf balls and pens, attached to take-out coffee mugs and spray washed on street corners. In the offline world, you’d think it was getting hard to find new ways to advertise. But it’s a never-ending game. The little ads in the clear plastic handle of the grocery cart. The ads on the traffic barriers in parking lots. There’s even a company that sells advertising space on sailboat sails. And you just know Richard Branson is going to use his new Virgin Galactic spaceship thingy to put advertising in outer space.

The online world is similarly cluttered. There are ads on Google, and all the other search engines. There are ads on Facebook, Myspace and YouTube. Twitter has just changed their rules to allow for advertising at some unspecified point in the future. And all those other free social media platforms that hundreds of millions of people are using? They aren’t going to be advertising free for much longer. 

Some research points to the number 3000. Apparently that’s how many branding messages we are exposed to every day. With all this frenetic expansionary activity, that number could get a lot bigger very soon. Which begs the question of effectiveness. If we are all busy trying to go about our daily lives, with 4000 or 5000 or 6000 brand messages coming at us, are any of them going to sink in at all?

This will lead to a massive change in the way branding and marketing decision makers approach the business of telling stories. And it’s in keeping with information consumption habits across the board. Everyone is tuning out the mass messages being flung at them, and turning to small, localized sources of information, preferably shared for free amongst peers through social networking or other more personal and private means of consumption. I’ll still read BC Business magazine for example, as a business person in BC, but will I read Newsweek? Maybe not so much. It’s too broad-based. It’s not specific enough to my own interests.

So, marketers need to find ways to be more personal. Splintered media buys that are laser-precise in terms of demographic profiling. One-on-one methods. More customer-service. More in-store events. More honest and open interaction and engagement. Reaching out and changing brand perceptions one customer at a time.

I think this is a good thing. It means that small businesses have as much chance of attracting brand loyalty as big companies. Simply being able to buy national TV prime time commercials is no longer a guarantee of success. It’s nothing short of the democratization of the commercial landscape. And that should be celebrated.