Retargeter Blog

The Marketing Dilemma

The marketing industry is facing a major dilemma.

Every day, more content is released to consumers at an exponential rate. For example, by the end of 2011, NM Incite, a Nielsen/McKinsey company, tracked over 181 million blogs on the web, up from 36 million in 2006.

And yet, the human brain remains a finite organ that can only handle so much information. This persistent information overload is leading to an increased stress level in consumers, which in turn leads consumers to block many of the messages directed at them.

Do Not _____

In response to higher stress, consumers have changed their lifestyles and adopted technologies to filter out information. Gated communities, caller ID, Do Not Call lists, priority email inboxes, and TiVo are all examples of filters designed to stem the tide and maintain normal stress levels.

This uptick in filtration poses a challenge to the marketing industry, as it’s getting more difficult and more expensive for marketers to reach their desired audience.

It’s Become an Arms Race

To address these new obstacles, marketers have largely responded by becoming more aggressive. For example, many TV commercials increase their volume significantly above that of the TV program. Magazine and billboard ads shamelessly integrate more and more sex. And finally, we advertise on every possible surface from coffee sleeves to cup holders at baseball stadiums.

Unfortunately, the industry’s arms race is only adding more fuel to the fire as these aggressive tactics only serve to increase consumer demand to filter marketing messages out.

The Real Problem

It seems as if the industry is trapped in a downward spiral, where every dollar spent trying to reach consumers offers a lower return on investment, potentially accelerating the very obsolescence of the industry as we know it.

But it isn’t a marketing problem; it’s a biology problem, and it might not be as challenging as we think it is. We just need to approach the problem differently.

Consumers are not predisposed to hate marketing; their filters are a reaction to stress brought on by overwhelmingly aggressive marketing tactics. If we can change our approach to be aligned with their biological needs, we can not only increase the likelihood of our success, we can fundamentally change the way the industry operates.

In Search of a Solution

We may not have all the answers, but we do have an idea about where to look.

There are two ways to address this growing biological challenge: we can focus on finding the latest and greatest tools, or we can go right to the architecture of our humanity and adjust our marketing strategies based on biology and basic human needs.

The latter course is the only way we can truly understand how to address the modern consumer and develop marketing messages that appeal to them, rather than using the latest, greatest tool to blast our messages at them.

As we dive deeper into this topic, we will share our specific strategic and tactical ideas, solutions, as well as our results. We hope you’ll participate in the conversation.

Leave a Comment


  • I always remember the relief of stepping off a noisy, jostling London street into a shoe shop.

    I can’t remember one shoe, just the white walls, glass shelves, glass stairs and .. space.

    This sense of calm is what we need to bring to our clients crowded lives, a sense they are safe, with no one shouting about their business or spouting rhetoric or using tired sales strategies experienced consumers are wise to and dismissive of.

    Like those glass stairs, it’s time for transparency. Transparency promotes trust.

  • I foresee entertainment and marketing integrating more and more as we head into the future as a response to the the market’s over-saturation, and people’s desensitization to ads. I think the line between games/shows/comics/news/ads is starting to fade away. More and more everything is weaving together into a complex tapestry as opposed to fitting solidly into specific traditional categories. As a human, I am not sure what I think of this, as I think it will make it harder to simply ignore or turn off the influence of ads constantly fighting for my attention. As a freelance flash developer though, I think it is a good thing, as games and such are a lot more fun to work on then just the constant pumping out of rich banner ads and such.