Trapped by the rapid change in online marketing tactics, the flutter of new legal requirements and the massive growth in technologies enabling audiences to avoid ads altogether, how are marketers meant to reach their audience in tomorrow’s world?
Maybe it is time to go back to the very beginning of marketing, word of mouth. Back in the pre-press days, where marketing was basically your neighbor recommending a product to you and the news from outside the region brought in by the traveling peddler. In other words, marketing was then largely a “one to one” or, at best, “one to a few” channel.
With the advent of newspapers, that were reserved to a literate audience – which also was, by and large, the audience with spare cash – advertising slowly started to grow, introducing the concept on “one to many” to marketing, instead of just politics.
With the industrialization age, and the alphabetization of the general population, the combination of mass production of goods, the growth of newspapers and the apparition of magazines, advertisement entered the mainstream, and the growth of the “one-to-many” marketing age reached its peak with the radio and television penetration of everyone’s home.
That was pretty much the situation by the end of the 20th century, where corporations could command the attention of target market from a central point and reach millions with carefully crafted ads, proudly broadcasted as widely as possible or printed in relevant newspaper and magazines.
Though global and nationwide campaigns were typically prohibitively expensive, SMB could tailor their campaigns to local or specialized publications, radio or TV channels. Yet, the end of the 20th century was coupled with the birth of the Internet, and that created massive changes in the options for advertising.
First came the banners, basically virtual ads “printed” on websites with relevant traffic. These cost a fraction of similar ads in printed magazines. In addition, this then new technology enabled advertisers to more accurately evaluate the effectiveness of a campaign by counting how many of the people who saw the banner actually visited the related site.
On the sales part, this new technology gave birth to affiliate marketing, enabling anyone to invest time and effort in creating a website where they would display products from sellers they selected and sell their product, basically running a virtual shop without any of the stocking or shipping headaches, just reaping commissions for each product sold from their website.
At the same time, traditional advertisers continued to leverage the fame of celebrities, paying them ridiculous amounts to sing the praise of their products. In a world conditioned for decades to the “one to many” mode of thinking, this had a measurable impact on the perception of brands resorting to this type of mass communication.
However, growing distrust in traditional advertisement and the growing ability to identify paid promotion is steadily eroding that impact, heralding an era of diminishing returns o investment when writing huge checks to stars in the hope of bathing in their glow.
Today, the heroes of online marketing are micro-influencers. Despite, or because, their relatively intimate audiences, micro-influencers keep a close contact with them and invest time and efforts to keep in touch with them, thus fostering a high credibility level.
Yet, as marketers trying to reach a wide audience will need to use a large number of micro-influencers to cover their target markets, they will be the main engine in ushering in the golden days of “many to many” marketing.