The Keys to Standing Out in a Crowded World

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We’ve all seen it before. You’re scrolling through your Twitter feed, attempting to catch up on your friends’ personal lives, the latest breaking news, and whether or not the dress is blue or gold (it’s blue, by the way). But, as you keep looking down your feed, you notice something that catches your eye, but not in a good way: a promoted tweet.

Whether I’m checking Twitter on my phone or on my computer, my first instinct is always to click the ‘X’ allowing me to dismiss the tweet. On a mobile device, Twitter asks why I dismissed the ad and I select the same response every time: “This tweet is not relevant to me.”

Promoted tweets are a very ineffective method to grab consumer attention. Although the tools allow you to specifically target individual feeds, Twitter accounts often cast too wide of a net, placing their tweets in feeds that have little to no interest in what they’re saying. Simply put, promoted tweets lack two of the hallmarks that allow advertisements to effectively grab consumer attention: subtlety and humor.

Whether you’ve been using Twitter since its inception, or just started using the service recently, seeing a promoted tweet can be a jarring experience. Twitter allows you to curate a feed suited to your interests, following accounts of people, places, and things of your choosing. Seeing a promoted tweet in the middle of your feed does nothing but break the sense of immersion, especially when the tweet itself has little, if anything, to do with the accounts you follow. It feels like yet another intrusion from advertisers, and with marketing and advertising already playing a massive role in the media we consume, these tweets only grab consumer attention in a negative way.

Utilizing subtlety is one way marketers and advertisers can get attention. Specifically, this means creating memorable advertising and marketing campaigns that don’t get repetitive. Often, advertising campaigns involve repeatedly seeing commercials, print ads, or even web advertising. But, this only adds to the oversaturation of media that consumers already experience. These repetitive campaigns don’t stand out, and add to the blur of our media consumption. One of the greatest examples of this is Apple’s legendary ‘1984’ Super Bowl ad. The ad depicts a scene inspired by George Orwell’s dystopian novel, ‘1984,’ as Big Brother addresses a crowd of mindless, obeying citizens, a blonde woman wearing white and orange rushes into the room, and throws a sledgehammer through the screen, and a narrator notes that with the arrival of Apple’s new Macintosh, “you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”

Although this ad aired before over-saturation of media became the norm, there are still many lessons that advertisers can take from just how different this advertisement was. While it’s cinematically distinct (having Ridley Scott direct your will do that for you), perhaps the most effective way Apple differentiated this campaign from others was its subtlety, as the commercial only aired once. This had a huge impact on Apple’s sales over the next three months, as the company sold $155 million in new Macintoshes alone. The Super Bowl allowed Apple to do this, as the event gives advertisers the single largest television viewing audience of the year.

While many marketing and advertising firms may not be able to afford a single Super Bowl ad each year, they should think about utilizing a more subtle distribution of their advertisements to avoid getting lost in the shuffle. Well-timed, well-placed advertising campaigns are a much more effective way of getting consumer attention than airing and placing advertisements in every possible venue.

Humor is another way in which advertisers and marketers can make their campaigns memorable. Do you remember the last advertisement that you watched? Did it make you laugh? Chances are, as Nigel Hollis discusses in a 2011 article published in The Atlantic, that a funny ad is much more likely to make a strong impression on viewers. Humor can inject life into a brand, and there’s no better place to look than the case of Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” ad campaign.

The campaign centers on the titular “Most Interesting Man in the World,” whose accomplishments are boiled down to funny, Chuck Norris fact-like quotes and sayings, such as “he can wear white after Labor Day,” or “he lives vicariously…through himself.”. Each television commercial ends the same way: the Most Interesting Man in the World, turns to the camera and says, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” The campaign has had real results for Dos Equis importer Heineken USA. In 2011, Dos Equis imports grew by 15.4%, compared to 2.7% for the average growth of the rest of the top 10 imported beers. Humor allowed Dos Equis to move from a niche brand, to one of the most popular in its markets.

With media consumption at an all-time high, the potential to reach consumers is as strong as ever. But, with so many possible avenues of entry, marketers and advertisers must find ways to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Subtlety and humor are two distinct, yet incredibly capable ways for brands to reach consumers. As Apple shows, well-timed, well-placed advertisements are often more effective and efficient than blitzing consumers with advertisements in every medium imaginable. For Dos Equis, a funny ad campaign resonated with customers and allowed importer Heineken USA to make substantial gains over its competitors.

Think back to the last time you read a promoted tweet. Do you even remember what was being advertised? Sure, it stood out as different from what’s normally in your feed, but did the tweet truly make an impression? If companies followed Apple and Dos Equis’ lead, the first response to a promoted tweet wouldn’t be dismissal. Instead, you just might want to read more about it.

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