Aug 6, 2014 3:19:29 PM

Information Overload and The Future Of Marketing

Posted by Lauren Totin

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No matter where you look, you’re likely to see a brand name not far away. And no matter what you search for, there’s content on it. Thirty years ago, it was estimated that the average city-dweller was exposed to between 2,000 – 5,000 marketing messages – and that was before the advent of the web as we know it.

We can only guess at how many that number has grown to today, but if we account for the insane growth of internet usage, we can guess it’s likely much, much higher.

How Bad is it, Really?

In his harsh but brilliant presentation, "Death to Bulls&#!Brad Frost pulls out some startling numbers. In a single, 24-hour day:

822,240 websites will be created, 499,680 posts will be published to WordPress, 4,000,000,000 things will be shared on Facebook, 40,000,000 photos will be uploaded to instagram and 114,800,000,000 emails will be sent.

But if that weren’t staggering enough, consider that 10% of all books ever published were published last year, 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minuteand 90% of all the data ever created across all of mankind’s history was created within the last 2 years.

So when you consider that there was much concern in 1970 about “information overload”, it’s actually pretty laughable how much worse it’s gotten.

There’s absolutely no doubt about it, we are drowning in information. There is content on absolutely everything you could ever want to know. Search for a product, you’ll find reviews, photos, videos, how-to’s and guides. Google a brand name and you’ll find news, opinions, coupons and deals, affiliate websites and more.

But is all this content good for the user? And what does this mean for marketing?

How Are Customers Responding?

If we look to history as an indicator, “ignoring” is the default filter for customers who are grappling to take in too much information. When the brain can’t take in more information, it rejects whatever it deems unnecessary. We can see that in marketing, even among channels outside of traditional outbound marketing.

We’ve seen steady growth in the number of consumers who fast-forward advertisements, or use services like Netflix to avoid seeing them at all.

More than 90% of consumers have unsubscribed from an e-mail list they opted into after receiving irrelevant, boring or excessive amounts of content. (Mashable)

30% of consumers will abandon their online shopping cart if asked to sign up or register before making the purchase – they’re leery of being marketed to after the transaction. (KISS Metrics)

And in a 2,000-American poll by Adweek, 63% of respondents said internet advertisements were something they’d completely ignore. In fact, statistically, you are more likely to be in a plane crash than click on a banner ad.

Whenever a consumer starts getting too much information, up go the barriers. As perfectly put by James Gleik,

“When information is cheap, attention becomes expensive.”

Consumers aren’t stupid; they have grown enormous lie detectors that cut through sensationalist, opportunistic, spammy or thinly-veiled attempts to market to them in the past.

We’re fooling ourselves if we think the same thing won’t happen with content marketing – but fortunately, the predictions needn’t be so dire.

When Being Remarkable is a Necessity, Not an Option

An excellent presentation called “Crap. The Content Marketing Deluge” highlights how the move to inbound marketing has every brand wanting to act like a publisher – and how a lack of skilled content creators and a focus on quantity is causing brands to produce some truly awful content.

As consumers are inundated with this content, they learn to tune it out. Does that signal trouble for inbound marketing in the future?

Yes and no.

As long as consumers have questions and a need for information (and they always will), inbound marketing is here to stay. What will change, however, is that reaching customers with content will get harder and harder if you’re not investing the effort to be remarkable with each and every attempt.

For marketers, this means forgoing the “publish as much as possible” for “publish what is exceptional”. Your content needs to solve problems, meet needs and eliminate pain points.

If it doesn’t, it’s not good for users and not good for your business.

If all you’re doing is making noise or following the “me-too!” lemmings of content production, you stand to be drowned out by the cacophony of other publishers all doing exactly the same things you are.

What Can Marketers Do?

Evaluate the content you’re creating. Is it useful? Is it unique? Are you creating amazing content, or are you just adding to the noise?

Invest in your content; take time to get it right. Have a strategy that’s grounded in answering real questions and solving real problems for real people. Work with great content creators, and scrutinize quality at every step of the way to be certain that what you’re producing is worthwhile.

It’s not easy or cheap to be remarkable – but it’s not impossible either. By producing what consumers actually want to consume, you can weather the information overload storm.



Topics: Content Creation

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