Facebook’s recent move to patent imaging technology that detects brands, such as alcoholic drinks and snacks, in users’ photos before then turning these into adverts for other users to see should give all marketers a reason to pause for thought. Specifically, it’s time to consider how exactly they want their customers and prospects to feel when they encounter their services or products online. Are evermore seemingly ‘annoying’ or ‘creepy’ adverts really the right investment? And, if so, what does that say about their company’s brand image?
It might appear that we’re in a catch-22 situation. Facebook and Google, amongst many others, claim advertising pays for much of the content they produce and without it, they would be forced to charge users for access. But assuming social media platforms believe their users are overwhelmingly happy with the services they provide that’s effectively the same as saying consumers won’t pay for a digital experience they value.
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That’s a complete fallacy and a fundamental misunderstanding of how people want to engage with brands online. The truth is that people won’t pay for experiences they don’t value. If users are refusing to pay for using your products or services, and revenue needs to be generated through other means, it’s not that consumers are tightening their purse strings but that they simply don’t consider the experience you’re providing as worth paying for.
Nobody uses Facebook, Google, or the Internet at large, because they love advertising. The fact that, in 2018, 41 percent of people in the UK reported using ad blockers should be sign enough that consumers actually hate advertising.
Instead, it’s arguably wiser to reassess advertising spend and place more emphasis on the experience a brand offers customers. Too many companies are using data and applying it to what people hate most when they’re online – intrusive advertising – when it could be far more effective to apply marketing budgets towards building superior experiences. As Joe Pine, the famous author, argues, we’re now firmly in the experience economy – where customers are overwhelmingly driven by the experience brands create, and the resulting impression they make, rather than factors such as price.
Although there’s a growing understanding amongst consumers that in exchange for access to services they may, on occasion, need to provide their data, they also need to feel like they’ve received something special in return. From an experience perspective, that could be personalized search, discounts or content tailored to them individually. All these are things customers can more easily ‘love’ than an advert using photos from their last birthday party or family Christmas.
The almost relentless march of social platforms to monetize users’ information in evermore creative ways is a warning to all organizations that they must urgently reassess what kind of experience and impression they want to make online.
The technology behind Facebook’s venture is certainly amazing, but the truth is that consumers are growing tired and frustrated of companies that continually target them with intrusive advertising.
Simply put, people don’t go online because they want to be advertised to, so we need to stop doing the one thing they hate most. Instead, let’s start doing what they love. Record yearly growth in Spotify Premium and Netflix subscriptions shows an ad-free model is certainly viable if the experience indulges a user. Applying equally amazing technology to create a superior experience could never be more vital in attracting and retaining customers in today’s hyper-competitive business environment.
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