I went to dinner at a friend's apartment the other week.
Minutes after arriving, the apartment began a violent shaking accompanied by an eardrum-shattering rumble. My friend stared in confusion as I jumped into a doorway, bracing myself against the obvious earthquake. Not only was my friend unconcerned, he hadn’t even noticed.
As it turns out, the above-ground train line runs inches from the wall of his building, and in the months he had lived there his brain had begun to tune out the noise and movement completely.
It’s amazing what the human brain is capable of. Once we adjust to a stimulus — no matter how intense — we can ignore it so thoroughly that it might as well not exist.
Attentional saturation just might be the biggest challenge modern marketers face online. Audiences are bombarded by marketing on every platform. And it’s not just ads. Even when users choose and curate their feeds, they see influencer marketing, sponsored blog posts, and marketing activations with AI and automation just adding to the cacophony. As a result, a lot of users are simply tuning out and ignoring marketing efforts.
But there’s hope for marketers. By building an authentic marketing presence, you’ll be able to tackle audience fatigue and make people genuinely want to engage with your brand.
Here’s four principles that can help you get there.
1. Create genuinely useful content
The accessibility of generative AI tools has resulted in a flood of low-effort marketing materials. However, without some level of human quality control, you risk publishing low-quality, hard-to-read content that your audience will not be fond of — compromising their trust in an instant.
You have a chance to build back audience trust in a few ways. First, you can use a comprehensive SEO strategy to rise in search rankings by creating content that answers commonly searched questions relevant to your business. Once you acquire site visitors using quality content, you increase the likelihood of a user spending more time on your site, reading more content, and exploring more site pages. This helps gain user trust, giving you an instant leg-up over sites with low-quality content that yield high bounce rates.
Quality content also helps you develop a strong brand reputation, encouraging users to not just come back to but regularly seek out and share your content. By offering upfront value, you’ll help your customers solve real problems and give them genuinely insightful resources. This not only boosts their sentiment of your brand, but also gives them reason to come back regularly.
2. Let your marketing have a real personality
If you want your audience to respond to your marketing campaigns, make content that engages and entertains them. Don’t be afraid to have personality, be funny, or produce content that isn’t uber glossy.
The first thing to do here is to develop an authentic voice, tone, and identity that people can connect with. Take a step back and understand who you’re trying to reach and speak to them in their own language.
For example, with some of Nike’s most memorable ad campaigns, such as the Spike Lee ads of the ‘80s, they successfully identified the communities who were spearheading the sneakerhead movement at the time and nodded to their cultural references to drive an iconic campaign. And because it blended in organically with who Nike was as a brand, the campaign was authentic and drew people in.
Authenticity is the key to building a fun and memorable brand, but make sure it aligns with what you’re selling. If it doesn’t, at best, your audience will see through inauthentic content and feel sold to, and at worst, you’ll make your audience cringe and develop a completely negative sentiment.
Another way to bring out your brand identity is to share strong opinions and think critically about your industry. Though the most common way to do this is through thought leadership content on a site blog or guest posts on reputable publications, you can apply this principle to other marketing channels; social media, email newsletters, ads, and more. At the end of the day, truly engaging content will be sought out, watched, read, and even willingly shared — no matter the channel.
3. Seamlessly integrate products where it’s appropriate
The point of marketing is still to build awareness that helps pique user interest and eventually drive an action — ideally, a sign up or purchase. The trick is to figure out how to build programs and campaigns that your audience’s eyes won’t glide right past the minute they get a hint of an “ad.”
Don’t try to shoehorn self-promotion into every single thing you post, but do present your product as a solution when it comes up organically and is either useful or authentic to the situation.
You also don’t want to disingenuously hide your sales pitch. Modern audiences are smart and can easily sniff out a hidden sales tactic. By being upfront, but not contrived — audiences won’t feel as “sold to.”
In blog posts, for example, let readers know from the jump that you’re talking about your product. Explain what information you have to offer so they don’t feel duped when they reach the end and it was an sales pitch all along. Make sure anyone you partner with includes appropriate “sponsored” tags or disclosures, and choose partners who have something authentic to say about your product or can offer relevant solutions and content to your audience..
Remember: your product exists to solve a problem for a consumer. If they feel like they’re being offered a solution that resonates when they need it, they’ll be happy to receive the message. You know your goal is to sell your product, and so does your customer — they just want genuine, useful communication about what you offer.
4. Follow the golden rule
Speak to others the way you would like to be spoken to. We all ignore ads, scan content, scroll right past accounts that sell too hard, and unsubscribe even from brands we like if their emails, social content, or notifications become irritating.
However, when marketers come to work, it’s easy to fall back on the standard marketing playbooks and employ the same marketing tactics that they often dislike when wearing their “consumer” hat.
While you may not be your own target audience, consider how you would react to marketing content as a gut check for evaluating your work. Think about what makes you scroll away, unsubscribe, or mistrust a brand. Scrutinize those details extra hard if you see them pop up in your content.
The golden rule works in the positive as well. Look at what brands’ content you find yourself seeking out. Which posts do you always stop and spend an extra second looking at? What kind of content do you find yourself connecting to or remembering? Your answers will be a great starting place for finding inspiration and insight.
Bring back the human side to your marketing. Focus on understanding and empathizing with your audience and talk to them like they’re a friend and not a problem you have to solve.
The internet is a big place — be the brand that your audience wants to find
The overwhelming noise of the internet can make it hard for you to grab your audience’s attention. Luckily, it also means that authentic content stands out more than ever. Treat your audience like collaborators, have a real conversation with them, and they’ll come and find you.