As the Web grows each day, it thrives on and within information-rich societies. On the other hand, traditional communications and marketing thrive in information-poor ones.
That is why, the job of marketing and advertising was much easier in the Twentieth Century. It could inform people of genuinely novel things like cars and soap powder, microwaves and computers.
People lived basic lives back then and these new products and services made things easier and more pleasant. People were information poor and the advertisement was often a source of interesting information. Marketers always started their sales pitch by saying to the consumer: “Did you know ….”
But as the century progressed all of this began to fade.
People began to have more information. For increasing numbers of people, advertising became an irritant that was constantly poking them on the side for their attention.
And that allowed the Internet to succeed, because it helps us make better decisions.
We go to the Web to get more details. We go to the Web on a mission. When was the last time you went to Google and said, “I wonder what should I search for today?” You go to the Web wanting to buy a lawnmower. The chances of your attention being caught by some clever ad for a vacation in the Bahamas are very, very small.
This created a real problem for marketers, because marketers have been trained to say, “Hey, look over here. This is really interesting.” Advertising is specifically designed to interrupt something you are doing.
Imagine you are sitting in an airport reading a book as you wait for your flight to be called. The stranger sitting besides you pokes you and starts by saying: “I’ve just found out about this amazing new product,” he says to you smiling enthusiastically. “And I’d really like to tell you about it.” What would you think of that sort of person?
On the Internet, spam emails and websites tell us they will change our lives. They tell us that they want to give us millions for nothing. All they need is our bank account details.
There are obviously enough foolish people out there to make some of these spammers rich, but the Web is not the land of the fool, quite the opposite.
The Web is the land of the impatient, the cynic, the skeptic, information-overloaded, time-starved consumer who is on a mission. The mission is to solve a problem, answer a question and get a good deal. The Web is the land of the comparison shopper, the person who wants to read reviews to see if the product is actually any good.
Trying to grab the attention by poking this information-rich consumer is much more likely to irritate than to interest them. Presenting them, on your homepage, with the big, smiling face of some actor who has never used your product is a good way of getting them to scorn at you.
Marketing must change. Marketing used to say: “Don’t go down that road, go down this road. My destination is much more interesting.” On the Web, we choose our destination and will not change it. Marketing must now say: “I can help you get to your destination faster and easier.”