Advertising Evolution & Digital Marketing Trends
Featured image: Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? (1956), Richard Hamilton.
Artists have until recently, always used images to convey messages. The opposite can be said of traditional advertising, where text (or ‘copy’ as marketers like to call it), was used before images.
I can almost see the visual repulse of art history purists as I assimilate the visual history of ‘dirty commerce’ with fine art. Nevertheless, I have a point to prove.
The absence of imagery in advertising in its earlier days was largely due to the limited technology available. Before the internet, television, and even radio (with the latter two falling under the category of ‘traditional advertising’), there was print media. Woodcarving, etching, lithography, screenprinting…these are just some of the methods that people used to distribute information.
Since the advent of digitalization, advertising and marketing has evolved rapidly. Now that we can use web analytics to reach our target market (see The Benefits of Web Analytics). We no longer waste paper on print that doesn’t always reach our target market and we can focus our energies on adapting and adjusting our marketing campaigns based on the successes and failures identified with web analytics.
That being said, internet marketing is ever changing based on how users interact with the content posted. It’s no surprise that people slowly grow tired of something they’ve seen a thousand times before. In the same way we’d get tired of a repeated joke, we grow tired of trends, imagery, and tone.
What do you want to read online? What do you expect to read online from certain brands? A business needs to adapt their online presence to accommodate what receives the best results in terms of the business goals, while still staying true to the brand vision.
Successful artists understand how to capture attention and communicate a message while still staying true to their ‘brand’. They understand that in order to be successful, they need to be recognized visually or conceptually. They build a reputation and become known for this ‘visual or conceptual identity’.
“There is a universal belief in lay circles that people won’t read long copy. Nothing could be farther from the truth.”
DAVID OGILVY, CONFESSIONS OF AN ADVERTISING MAN (1963)
Traditional Advertising to Contemporary Advertising:
Long Copy isn’t Dead
This Harley-Davidson ‘long copy’ advertisement poster from the 1950’s demonstrates a classic example of long-copy advertising. However, it was different to its contemporaries. Unlike the image-heavy advertisements of its time, this kind of text-heavy, couple-centric advertisement performed the best in relation to other ads of its time that contained less text and more imagery.
This ‘long-copy’ style was pioneered by David Ogilvy in the 1960’s. This advertisement is a far cry from the advertisements we see today where communicating using just an image is the norm. More on this later, though.
“Every advertisement should be a complete sales pitch for your product. It is unrealistic to assume that consumers will read a series of advertisements for the same product.
You should shoot the works in every advertisement, on the assumption that it is the only chance you will ever have to sell your product to the reader – now or never.
“The more facts you tell, the more you sell. An advertisement’s chance for success invariably increases as the number of pertinent merchandise facts included in the advertisement increases.”
Dr. Charles Edwards of the Graduate School of Retailing, at New York University
Why has the popularity of a text-heavy type of advertisement shifted to a more minimalistic, image-centric advertisement that we see today? The answer can be found in the discourse of art production and appreciation of art. We see a trend towards simplification in the tastes and motives of the image-creaters and image-consumers. From the ornately decorated Baroque artworks of the 1800s, to the more conceptual, simplified minimalistic artworks of the 1960s. So why the shift in aesthetic appreciation?
The shift in aesthetics could be attributed to sociopolitical and socioeconomic reasons (since the Baroque artists of the 1800s that I’m thinking of were generally commissioned to paint by rich aristocrats). In addition, the shift in aesthetics should also be attributed to the advancement of technology and the overall ease-of-access to information. It is common practice for businesses to simply post a visually appealing advertisement with minimal information, but the common message that comes across is their brand.
Just as with art, in advertising there was an increasing desire to ‘cut the clutter’. The danger of oversimplification of information, as Minimalism in art was critically acclaimed for, is that personality is lost. Hence we see a shift of emphasis from informational advertising to branding advertising.
The shift from informational advertising to branding advertising has been an ongoing process spearheaded by Bill Bernbach and Helmut Krone in the 1960’s. Businesses have been slowly integrating marketing strategies that are brand-centric and ultimately aim to create impressions for their brand onto the consumers.
The idea is that a brand is worth more than the product and giving the brand a likeable personality helps users connect better with the company and thus the brand.
The same can be said about art: with valuable art, the name is generally worth more than materials used to make the art (let’s not get into Damien Hirst’s failed auction of a fully diamond encrusted skull).
The concept of brand personality has morphed more recently into a common trend of talking to the customer as if they were a friend. This is what marketers call ‘chatty copy’. A simple contemporary example would be the watering stations at your local gym. Saying ‘water’ above the water dispenser is so obvious. Try adding some personality to your brand with something more along of the lines of ‘top up your H2O, bro!’. This creates a more memorable impression on customers. This brings me to the next point about marketing trends:
Personalization is now Possible
From the masses to ‘Mr & Mrs Particular’ – making content relevant to your readers
The online world is flooded with content and users are tired of feeling exploited through advertising. As a result, marketers are moving more towards personalization in an attempt to give customers a more unique and customizable experience. Because of ever-changing technological advances, marketers can now do exactly that. Content can be directed at only those who want to see it.
Beginning in late 2009, Google started introducing personalized search to signed-out users worldwide in an attempt to provide more relevant search results. While this does seem to be a step in the right direction, it has limited the potential for certain demographics. Searching the same term on different devices and in different regions or languages will yield different results for each user. This means that businesses have to work even harder to supply content that is appreciated or accepted across diverse socioeconomic and sociopolitcal audiences to broaden their potential reach.
Mobile is moving markets: appealing to a wider audience
While some of us feel like we’re tired of all these apps businesses are pushing onto us, some of them are necessary to access certain features (online banking, buying groceries etc.). With the continuous growing popularity of mobile devices, app marketing is a rising trend in 2016 which business owners and app developers are hungry to take advantage of.
With such a platform it is easy to integrate services and information to customers as they request it. Pop-up notifications from apps are almost as annoying as internet ad pop-ups and marketers must keep this in mind when designing and publishing updates for their consumers.
Multi-platform strategies to accomodate for all audiences
It should come as no surprise that marketers have to develop multi-platform strategies to accommodate all audiences. Between the websites, apps, blogs, newsletters etc. a business’s audience has become increasingly more segregated. Multi-platform integration is essential to keep as many users engaged on as many platforms as you can.
The growth in app development and internet activity has subsequently caused a rise in simpler/easier transaction opportunities. One of the largest instant messaging applications in China ‘WeChat’ integrated their ‘WeChat Wallet’ feature in 2014 and since then many retailers have jumped at the opportunity to offer this as a payment option. This was arguably the largest integration that affected the general population as they could now make effortless payments while messaging their friends.
Deliver relevance, resonance and reach
While all of these trends are important to keep in mind, it’s also necessary to not lose sight of the online goals for your brand and business.
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