This is the beginning of a series, Breaking The Marketer’s Code, where I will share the marketing tactics companies utilize to trigger you to consume more than you need. We should not be influenced by external factors like social media or marketing tactics into making our purchases. First, we will need to talk about the basics, surprise, and power of digital marketing.
What is Marketing?
It is the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising (Lexico.com).
Marketing allows a company to let consumers know about its products and also to differentiate itself from its competitors.
Companies utilize marketing to fulfill various functions that ultimately lead to more sales.
Functions include the following
- Product awareness
- Education about product features and benefits
- Company’s branding and stance on various issues
- Promotions and discounts
- Building a community
Every marketing campaign would need to fulfill some trackable goals to assess whether the campaign is successful. To analyze the success of the marketing campaigns, the companies typically track performance in that period compared to a similar period without marketing efforts.
Goals include the following
- Increase number of leads
- Increase sales
- Grow website traffic
- Gain social media followers and engagement
- Improve conversion rates
- Build email lists
The Rise of Digital Marketing
Digital marketing encompasses all marketing efforts that use an electronic device or the internet. Businesses leverage digital channels such as search engines, social media, email, and other websites to connect with current and prospective customers (HubSpot).
The Internet’s mass adoption has led to the rise of digital marketing.
As you can see from the chart above, since 2019, digital marketing ad spend has already overtaken traditional marketing ad spend and it is projected to increase every year.
Digital marketing is more effective and efficient in targeting and reaching out to consumers. It also allows smaller players to compete on a more level playing field with bigger players.
With the two biggest players, Google and Facebook, digital marketing is put on steroids. I will touch on Facebook and Google in detail in the future.
Google and Facebook Know You Better Than You Know Yourself
Based on your every action on the internet, Facebook and Google collect massive amounts of your personal information and preferences. They then profile you into certain categories to feed you ads accurately. Accurately fed ads have a higher rate of conversion as they are more relevant to you.
Examples of your personal information and preferences tracked
- Demographics (Age, race, gender, marital status, income, education, employment)
- Upcoming life events
You can take a look at the following websites when you are logged into your Google or Facebook accounts respectively to see what information has been gathered about you.
Google Ad Settings – https://adssettings.google.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/adpreferences/ad_settings (look under data about your activity from partners)
Alibaba Group – The Future Global Giant
Alibaba Group’s list of services is already deeply entrenched into the lives of the Chinese population.
Alibaba group is involved in services ranging from
- Physical commerce
- Financial services
- Consumer services
They gather massive amounts of data from all their different services to allow them to make accurate decisions.
Source: Alibaba Group
They also aim to serve 2 billion customers by 2036. Take note that the current Chinese population is only 1.4 billion. They definitely have their eyes on the global market.
When a single corporation has that much power and control over the lives, it can allow for great innovation and progress. However, it will also lead to over-dependence on a single or group of corporations.
Traditional Marketing vs Digital Marketing
There are multiple mediums where marketing messages are published. I have created an infographic that shows the different mediums of marketing, separated into traditional and digital platforms.
Targeting Accuracy and Efficiency
Before the rise of digital marketing, agencies generally profile the audiences of the viewing medium (e.g., TV, Magazines, Newspapers, etc) by their demographics, geolocation, interests, and serve ads that fit their target audience. They can generally profile their audience’s interests by the content that they are subscribed to.
For example, if you are signed up to the Financial Times, you are likely to be interested in investments and likely to be in the financial industry. Using this information, they will be able to serve specific ads e.g. investment-related ads to their target audience.
They are unable to drill down into targeting various groups as all groups will have to view the same ads.
Using the Financial Times as an example again, investment companies might want to target two groups of people for their marketing campaign.
- Group 1: Consumers aged 20 – 30 looking to aggressively grow their portfolio
- Group 2: Consumers aged 40 – 50 looking to plan for their retirement
The company would have to publish both ads in the newspaper to reach both groups. Group 1 will tend to ignore the ads on retirement planning while Group 2 will tend to ignore the ads on aggressive investments.
Campaigns are more cost-efficient using digital marketing. Usage of digital marketing would allow companies to accurately target specific groups based on different products. Different groups of consumers visiting the same site will view different ads catered specifically to their profile. You can limit your ads to a 5km radius around your shop, or you can target an entire country.
Assessment of Marketing Campaign
You can also see that it is difficult to assess the performance of the marketing campaign as you are unable to directly attribute your goals to the marketing campaign held.
For example, if you serve a television or newspaper ad, you will not be able to accurately attribute the increase in sales to that specific campaign. You are unable to control or track precisely where are your customers coming from.
You would also not be able to track concurrent campaigns accurately. If you run a television ad and a radio ad at the same time, you might not be able to see which campaign is more successful and adjust your campaigns moving forward.
The tracking of marketing campaigns was difficult before the rise of digital marketing. As you are logged into Google and Facebook while you surf the web, they will be able to track your journey across the internet. When you view an ad on the internet and subsequently perform an action, companies will be able to accurately attribute the sale to that ad. When multiple digital marketing campaigns are performed, we will be able to attribute the conversion of goals accordingly to the different marketing campaigns.
For example, you deploy three separate marketing campaigns using Facebook ads, Google Ads and Email Marketing, you will be able to track what are the various points of contact with your ads before the conversion process. You will then be able to assess the performance of each campaign and make adjustments to optimize your campaigns.
With all the tools available with digital marketing, you will be able to track various metrics to assess the results of your campaign.
Some examples of metrics assessed
Barriers to Entry
Compared to traditional marketing, digital marketing has a much lower barrier to entry and is more scalable on the fly.
Traditional ads had to be purchased in advance. You had to buy ad space upfront to run an ad on the traditional medium like newspaper or a billboard. A lump sum of investment is needed before seeing any results.
You couldn’t test your campaigns with $5 per day. Also, you would not be able to easily modify your advertising budget based on the results.
But with digital marketing, you can do those things. You can spend as little as $1 a day, on multiple platforms, and on the other end of the spectrum, you can scale up to spend millions per month.
Digital marketing is highly accessible to small businesses with small budgets, while also providing the scale needed for huge corporations.
Power of Marketing
Professionals are hired to carefully craft messages and visuals. These marketing campaigns are made to resonate with you and trigger emotions to make you more susceptible to make purchase decisions.
Source: The Drum
An example would be the above ad from Lysol. The carefully crafted ad shows that a mother will protect their children at all costs just like animals do. It taps into the deep and universal human instinct to keep our loved ones safe. Therefore, establishing that Lysol is the go-to product if you would like to protect your family with the message of making the strength of Lysol as everyday and strong as the strength of a mother’s protection.
Some common marketing techniques include
- Social Proof
- Quick Wins
- Common Cause
Now that we can see the power of marketing, we must be aware of its effect on our purchasing decisions. Marketing by companies can provide us with information about products. Always evaluate if you really need the product and try not to be influenced by marketing efforts making you spend more.
The Future Of Marketing – Community Building and Consumer Data
Consumers are getting smarter and immune to straightforward advertising. The consumer decision-making process is changing.
These are three ways of how consumers are changing
- New distinct customer segments
- Ways of receiving information
- Resonating with brand values
Companies are now building communities and gathering data to make informed decisions. The consumer is at the centre of digital interactions and product development.
The direct engagement and feedback with the consumers allow them to build loyal consumers and develop products based on the data. Effective business decisions made will be customer-centric and data-based. Products manufactured will be more responsive to what the customer really wants. This will be covered in-depth in a future chapter.
Steps to Combat Marketing
Here are some steps that you can take to attempt to lower the influence of marketing on you.
Download Ad Blockers and Privacy Browsers
Out of sight, out of mind. Ad blockers like uBlock origin (Chrome | Firefox) create a less cluttered online browsing experience. Without ads, you will not be distracted while browsing and manipulated into making an impulse purchase.
Privacy browsers like Firefox and Brave block companies from tracking your actions on the internet. This makes it hard for them to harvest your information to profile you.
Stay Off Social Media
If you are not paying for the service, you are the product. Companies are using social media to target you for their marketing campaigns. Lots of information is gathered about you to profile you and send ads your way.
People also use social media to show off their lifestyle, tempting individuals to follow trends and spend more money.
A survey from Propeller Research on behalf of Varo Money found that social media makes millennials spend more money. It is revealed that 47% of millennials spend up to four hours a day browsing through social media. That has led to 38 per cent of scrollers making an impulse purchase after seeing it on social media.
Delete eCommerce Apps
eCommerce apps tempt you with frequent notifications on promotions and discounts. Also, it makes it really easy to add to cart and make an impulse purchase.
What I personally do is only re-download the apps when I need to make a purchase and delete them when the item has arrived.
Evaluate Purchase Decision
Question yourself why do you need to make that purchase. Marketing efforts are getting more subtle. Make a purchase based on your own needs and wants and not based on an ad telling you that you need that product. You need to understand that marketing messages are carefully crafted to sway you to take action.
Marketing can be used to influence purchase decisions. Digital marketing is traditional marketing on steroids. Marketing is not necessarily bad but be aware of what marketing subconsciously does to your purchase decisions and take steps to combat it accordingly.
In the next chapter, I will talk about the marketing funnel model that marketers commonly utilize to craft their marketing campaigns.
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