Banner advertising is dead

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In a recent neuro-scientific study by Neuro Spark, using Galvanic Skin Response, Electroencephalography, Eye Tracking and Micro-Facial Expression Encoding, the results showed that banner advertising on web sites are not particularly effective.

When you are reading an article that interests you, and slowly scrolling down the page, your focus is on the article. A colourful ad with a strong image may get a split second of visual attention, but not so much cognitive attention. If the banner ad is made to look like an article, it gets double the attention (0.8 seconds instead of 0.4 seconds). When you’re in an information gathering mindframe on a particular subject, your brain is ignoring anything other than more information. Think about the last time you read a really interesting article on a web page, did you really take in the other stuff around it?

In one study with participants looking at an online store having been given some money to shop with, a banner ad to promote a particular product only had a 4% increase in Brand Lift above the products on the page not highlighted with a banner ad. A product video, however, gained 27% Brand Lift. The same study showed double the Purchase Intent when using a brand video over digital ads.

This recent research is great news, as it backs up what I’ve been preaching for a while now to clients and anyone that listens. When people are online, particularly on a social media platform, they are not necessarily in the buying frame of mind, but they are looking to be entertained, inspired and educated. The old school approach of hard sell advertising is dying everywhere, and certainly has less relevance in a digital environment. Further to that, more and more people are installing ad blockers, so many banner ads on sites are not even visible. And then there’s the fact that more and more people are consuming content on a mobile device.

“People like to buy, but they don’t like to be sold to!”

I believe that rather than creating digital ads, the most effective digital marketing tactic is to create really great content, in the form of articles and videos, that highlight your product or service in a less obtrusive manner, focussing on entertaining and educating instead. This approach creates an emotional connection. It allows people to better understand the emotional and rational benefits and feel something.

Fear of not belonging is harming small business

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Some people get a kick from watching dash cam footage of car crashes on Youtube. Me, once in a while, I like to grab the two local newspapers at the bottom of my drive — if they are not too soggy — and bring them into the house so I can see the kind of local businesses that still put the majority of their monthly marketing budget into local newspaper advertising. A state of bewilderment is always guaranteed. Twisted and sick, right?

Recently one newspaper ran a page to “celebrate” women in business. There was a block of about 12–14 ads. About seven or eight of the ads were real estate agents. The ads all looked the same, just the background colours varied. A photo of the agent looking very corporate, their name, brokerage logo and phone/url. Some had a cheesy tagline that didn’t actually help their cause.

Someone please explain to me; how is a reader supposed to choose one of the agents? What’s the differentiator? Why so many realtor ads? Why is everyone’s advertising so similar?

Actually, that was a rhetorical question. I see this all too often. One of the biggest mistakes people make when going into business is to look at their industry, see how other people are doing things, and basically copy them. Why? So they fit in.

There is something going on here, that stems from how we are wired as humans. Fear.

There is a fear that if you don’t do what everyone else does, you won’t fit in, and we all are wired from thousands of years of evolution to want to fit in and feel safe. So when a local newspaper tells you they are running a page that feature local woman in business — or a section to celebrate Canada Day or Mother’s Day, whatever — and “the spots are selling quickly”, you are hit with a fear that if you don’t take part you’ll be missing out. And you crave inclusion and the need to feel part of a tribe. Survival emotions kick in. You don’t think straight when this happens. The fact is, this “lizard” part of our brain that reacts to these emotions overrides your logic, to protect you. What eases primeval fear is safety in numbers. That’s great if you’re in a small village in the jungle and there’s a sabre-toothed tiger stalking the perimeter, but not so great if you’re in business and want to stand out from the crowd.

The businesses and brands that really thrive and achieve great things are the ones that are brave enough to override their lizard brain thinking and dare to stand out, be different, and rock the boat a little (or a lot!). They pay no attention to what others are doing or saying.

Be fearless and thrive

Don’t be concerned with what others are doing or saying, do your own thing.

Just because your competition are putting ads in the local newspaper, or wherever, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or you should too. For many businesses, there are far more effective ways to reach your audience!

You need to be different, be relevant, and fearlessly and confidently stand out from the crowd.

Don’t rely on the media to help you, help yourself. Become the media.

Overcome the fear of inclusion, belonging and safety. Sure, it’s unnatural, and it’s hard to do, and most people can’t bring themselves to do it. That’s exactly why YOU should do it!

The bottom line: Overcoming fear is the key to unlocking the potential to achieve great things.