When was the last time one of your ad campaigns sold your entire inventory in seven minutes and sparked a $2,000 aftermarket on eBay?
Unless you work for General Electric or a digital men's lifestyle company called Thrillist, this has probably never happened to you.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, GE and Thrillist collaborated on a native campaign for nearly $200 "moon sneakers" that commemorated GE's participation in the historic event.
Their strategy was simple enough: The companies worked together to produce articles with fun headlines like "10 Reasons Why the Apollo Astronauts Were Certified Badasses" and distributed them on multiple websites.
This campaign owes its success to how perfectly these companies hit their target markets. They told interesting stories in a fashion that spoke directly to hip audiences on various websites.
In a word, this campaign was "authentic."
The rising importance of authenticity
As consumers become more digitally savvy, it's increasingly important that advertisements become more authentic. Television watchers can now fast-forward through commercials, and web surfers can easily block and ignore irrelevant ads.
But advertising is a massive source of income for companies, and high-quality ads that are placed well can still be of service to consumers.
So how do we replace consumer apathy with a desire for ads? The solution, of course, is through authenticity.
Advertising no longer needs to convince people to spend money. Consumers are ready to buy products; they just want to find the best and most trustworthy way to do so. At the end of the day, trust means everything, and properly delivered advertisements can help brands earn it.
Here are three techniques that will make your brand more trustworthy:
A study conducted at the University of Connecticut revealed that college students are more likely to trust a credit card company that clearly displays its disclosure than one that hides it in a dusty corner of its website. While most students probably won't read the disclosure, being upfront with it underscores a transparency that consumers are more willing to trust.
Internet surfers go online to be entertained, informed, and connected. Successful marketers deliver content that aligns with these objectives. Bombarding users with a "Sign up for Netflix" banner ad when they're trying to read an article about finance is an inauthentic tactic that will yield poor results. Ads that cater to client interests boast much higher engagement levels by building trust.
Authentic ads are smoothly integrated into the sites they appear on. Surfers typically ignore anything that feels like an interruption. However, seamless ads that invite user interaction are much more appealing. Elective interaction has proven to be far more valuable than autoplay videos and unwanted pop-ups.
So how you can add authenticity to your ad equation?
Making authentic advertising work for you
Because you're still reading this article, it's safe to assume you don't work for GE or Thrillist, and would like some tips on being more authentic in your advertising efforts.
These three steps should send you on your way:
Track quantitative and qualitative data
The marketing industry is currently flooded with products that measure all kinds of quantitative data. Money spent, impressions, clicks, views, and actions -- all of this important data is pretty easy to track.
But don't forget to also track qualitative data. You need to understand how your channel partners are driving those quantitative numbers. For example, if a video is autoplaying in the upper right corner of a page, it might receive a lot of impressions -- but it might not deliver much value to you or your potential customers.
Take the path of fewest intermediaries
In the world of digital advertising, there are thousands of different ways for marketers to buy user attention. Some of those options involve layers upon layers of intermediaries who also profit from your marketing budget.
Ultimately, the more intermediaries there are between you and your marketing channel, the more ambiguity there is around the ad experience. Too many cooks in the kitchen can lead to fraud, bot clicks, and bloated pricing -- none of which will help you in the long run. Lean toward only doing business with channel partners with small numbers of intermediaries.
Remember that content is king
Always keep in mind that people turn to the Internet for entertainment and information. Your most important marketing task is providing content that helps consumers achieve their goals. Once you've identified your product-market fit, explore content marketing options that will effectively spread your message to the proper channels.
The most effective content will blend your consumers' needs with your company's main objectives. Content distributing, sequencing, and retargeting technologies are all available to marketers. But the first step is finding your story -- after that, everything else will fall into place.
Thrillist CEO Ben Lerer admits that even he was surprised by just how effective his campaign with GE was. But it stands as proof that authentic advertising drives engagement and trust, leading to the best results.
Imagine a world with only authentic advertising. It would be a huge step up from frustrating banners and pop-ups. Similar to Neil Armstrong's famous moonwalk words: It's one small step for man, but one giant leap for digital marketing.
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