The modern digital age exposes consumers to unprecedented levels of information, with much of it coming from brands and businesses. In 1980, 25 years before the advent of the smartphone, Americans were exposed to the equivalent of 10 gigabytes of data per day. 28 years later, in 2008, the human hard drive processed 34 gigs of daily data. Today, Americans absorb roughly 74 gigabytes of information every single day, the equivalent of nine DVDs worth of data. If this trend continues, we’ll soon need to find ways to consume more than 24 hours of media every 24 hours.
In today’s world of multitasking and constant streaming, businesses must compete to be the dominant stream. However, this runs the risk of overwhelming already overclocked consumers at cognitive capacity who, exposed to roughly 500 different marketing messages daily, are having Brandwidth Issues.
But Americans aren’t blind to the fact that we’re reaching critical mass. According to the 2017 U.S. MONITOR, more than three-quarters of all Americans want to simplify things in their lives. 60% of Centennials feel overwhelmed with the amount of information they deal with on a daily basis. As the preferences and expectations of digital natives and dependents define the market, the sense of being overwhelmed will likely only increase.
The resulting paradox of choice—that too many options leads to fewer choices—is a problem for businesses, and means that despite the ever-increasing amount of content we create for consumers, they process and consume less and less. It also creates the desire for consumers to control the amount of content they see, namely from digital advertisements. It’s no coincidence that the increasing number of marketing messages occurs in lockstep with increasing ad-blocker usage. One estimate suggests that 64% of U.S. consumers ages 18-24 use ad blockers on their desktop, mobile or both.
Moving From Noise To Signal
So how do we as businesses connect with consumers who deal with Brandwidth Issues? One strategy is to offer radical simplicity, helping consumers simplify their lives rather than add to the wealth of information that burdens them. Packaging and messaging that is simple, yet finds the sweet spot between just enough and too much information will help businesses stand out among the competition and win in the attention economy and avoid potential reflexive dismissal of their brands.
Another strategy is to avoid interruptive ads in favor of contextual advertising so your brand or businesses isn’t associated with the “Skip Ad” reflex. Some brands, like McDonald’s have experimented with de-branding their advertising entirely, like this spot with Mindy Kaling asking people to search Google for “that place where Coke tastes so good.” All of these strategies operate under the assumption that adding to the noise isn’t a sound growth strategy in today’s marketplace, but meaningfully connecting with consumers is still possible even in a crowded environment.
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