Stuart Stubbs
Stuart Stubbs 15 May 2018

Are Brands Forgetting their Users?

Drowning in the ever-flowing sea of content, it’s time the user fought back. When it comes to branded messaging, the audience is too often being forced to consume rather than willingly choosing to interact.

For a brand, the temptation to push messages on their terms and not consider the poor consumer, is often too great.

In what has become known as an ‘Always On’ approach, underlined by a frantic desire for views, the consumer is being drowned in marketing messaging, whether that is in the name of advertising or content marketing.

How did it come to this?

To put it simply, we, the digital audience, just don't have a choice about the frequency and nature of the messaging we receive from the brands we have interacted with. As brands now have to fight even harder for our attention (and seeing as how our data is now the new currency of the web - allowing brands the ability to reach us in all corners of the Internet), we’re not likely to see an end to it either.

To use a commuting analogy, if a train company puts up its ticket prices, the travelling public - with largely no other transport choice available - just has to accept it.

And so it is with brands. If brands drown out the audience with interruptive, unwanted communications, there’s not a lot we, the audience, can do about it. (Although the potential damage to the brand-consumer relationship and risk that the consumer walks into the arms of a competitor, is huge.)

As far as commuting is concerned, the resultant rise in the number of cyclists on our roads is completely understandable.

In the digital world, so is the rise in consumer use of ad blockers. 

We do what we can to fight back.


Across the world, several trade bodies exist to protect and promote advertisers and the agencies that represent them.

Standards on issues such as viewability, supported (and often created) by those organisations, are devised in the interests of the advertiser. 

Having an ad that is 50% viewable for 3 seconds may be acceptable to the advertising community in their interest of counting 'a view' but is of no interest to the end user. (Even less so if it's an auto-playing video.)

Standardising a forced experience is counter-intuitive. 

In the rare case that user-first elements are suggested, such as in the recent draft ad unit portfolio from the IAB, they are often un-enforceable and regularly ignored by the overwhelming percentage of advertisers and publishers across the web.

This isn’t just about ads though.

It’s the same in the world of content marketing. We are being bombarded by so much messaging in the name of 'content' that we cannot possibly consume it all.

So, who is fighting in the user's corner?

What we need is the ability to choose what it is that we want to engage with, when we want to engage with it and on which platforms we want to engage, not to be interrupted or forced to consume anything we haven't asked for.

Those brands that are able to recognise these issues and adapt their strategy accordingly - to think user-first, to not over-saturate and to genuinely add value - will be the ones that have the most loyal and passionate customers, that come back to them to seek out additional content.

5 tips on how to create user-first branded messaging

Here’s a brief ‘top-5’ of some of the areas to consider if you’re trying to engage your audience but don’t want to cross the fine line that divides attraction from repulsion!

1. Add value.

Ensure your messaging adds value to the lives of your audience. Ask yourself: what would I willingly watch or click on if I were in their shoes?

2. Choose a platform.

It’s crucial to think about what platform you want to share your content on before creating it. Where does your audience live? Where would they like to see it? What formats, lengths of content, etc., work best for that platform?

3. Target your audience.

Know who your audience is and try not to create unnecessary noise. A broad-brush attempt to reach everyone will likely just alienate people, not win friends.

4. Be relevant.

Adopt a timely approach that is relevant to events or topics of the day. Don’t over-post but be willing to create and seed content for those users who have expressed an interest in seeing more.

5. Be authentic.

Your audience can see right through a hard sales pitch from a mile away. So, instead of just pushing the products or services you’re trying to sell, create content that shows who you really are. Have personality. People like to buy from companies they can identify with.

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