Advertising was born as a way to introduce consumers to new products. It was placed in a mass medium through which consumers got both information and product knowledge. Because consumers had to go to a store to buy, advertising was often separated from the buying experience by hours, days, weeks. The goal of traditional advertising was to keep the name of the product in the mind of a consumer until that consumer was ready to buy. That was called branding.
However, today information about products is everywhere, especially on e-commerce sites like Amazon. You may want to ask whether we even need advertising in a world so full of product information.
We do. We need it to distinguish between one product and other in the same space. And we still need it to keep the names of products top of mind until we are ready to buy. 99% of the time people are online, they’re not there to buy anything. That’s the big mistake digital advertising made in its early years. Every time an ad appeared, it tried to sell someone something. This annoyed the non-purchasing visitors.
We are entering a different world for advertising. The app store now has 2,000,000 apps that have been downloaded 130,000,000,000 times. $50b has been paid by Apple directly to developers. There are now four separate Apple platforms, each of which is world changing, and each of which has its own apps. And we haven’t even talked about Android, which has the lion’s share of the mobile market.
Every app developer is a publisher, and each is competing with traditional publishers for attention. If you are playing Candy Crush, you are not consuming news. And if you are consuming news, chances are its curated within an app. The open web has lost ground to the application economy. The audience is fragmented beyond belief.
What does this mean for advertisers? It means many opportunities to bring a message to potential customers, but in a different environment with different affordances. It’s not about the masses anymore, it’s about the niches.
To reach niches, engagement is key. Advertisers need to be clever about how they attempt to engage people who are not online to buy. Their goals need to be changed from performance to branding, and their strategies altered accordingly.