Right now, more than ever, we have the ability to avoid advertising and marketing that is directed towards us. We can skip ads on YouTube after 5 seconds, scroll past promotional videos on Instagram, and simply ignore Hulu ads by opening another tab to Buzzfeed. Marketers and advertisers can no longer produce an ad that leaves consumers interested by the end, they have to pull consumers in within seconds, forcing them to pursue the campaign independently. For me to consider an ad effective I have to become emotionally invested, whether it be by humor, tragedy or romance. I have to feel like the advertiser is interested in my opinion as an individual, companies have to devote time and resources to a social media strategy that engages me as closely as I engage with the product.
Social Media has lessened the gap between consumers and advertisers by making the brands more accessible. Often our Twitter or Instagram profiles are personal, thereby making the connections we have on those platforms (at some level) personal as well. One brand that has achieved a personable, friendly image on social media is Taco Bell. Accepting the commonplace of such things as humor, personal anecdotes, and grammar that is less than perfect is the first step in capturing an audience on Twitter. We have become immune to traditional advertising, as we can literally scroll past it, but are still intrigued by brands that come off as refreshingly personal. In this case, Taco Bell humanizes their brand through humor, and heavy engagement with the audience. Whether or not all of these interactions are organic, they come off as just that. Take, for example, this interaction with artist Mac Miller:
I'm bout to just start buying up Taco Bell franchises, nothing is guaranteed but death and chalupas.
— Mac (@MacMiller) August 27, 2015
Mac Miller tweeted this, not tagging or hash-tagging Taco Bell, but the Taco Bell account still retweeted his tweet, as well as thousands of others from everyday consumers professing their love for the fast-food chain. Taco Bell encourages consumer engagement by responding to fans on a daily basis, essentially rewarding the interactions. In this age, the most attention-grabbing thing a large company like Taco Bell can do is engage with the “little guys” as if they are one in the same.
With retweets and replies being so common on the account, customers have also been encouraged to be more creative, turning the consumers into the party that is vying for attention and pursuing the brand. Interactions like the one below reveal the enthusiasm and devotion fans have for Taco Bell:
— Cutest (@Iamsocut10) August 4, 2015
In a sense, advertisers have to stand out by blending in; blending into the platform they use. Taco Bell tweets song lyrics, changing them to incorporate the word “taco” or “burrito” or tweets about the disdain they (and everyone else) hold(s) for Mondays. It’s important that every tweet is not a promotion of a new product or service they’re offering, some have to be tweets that don’t necessarily carry a purpose, but let the consumer know they’re still around and present in social media. It’s comparable to the behavior of the average tweeter; they tweet about their passions and their dislikes, but they also tweet about their morning commute or embarrassing blunder of the day.
If you're a burrito, I'm a burrito.
— Taco Bell (@tacobell) May 16, 2015
Attention is a commodity and consumers recognize that, so the goal is to make the brand’s attention the commodity; accessible but coveted. The brand has to be a part of current culture and trends that the public is drawn to. For example, memes have become a popular way to express a range of emotions about school, work, and the people around us. Brands have picked up on that and incorporated them into their newsfeeds, providing humor and connecting to the consumer.
The brands that grab my attention are the one’s that reach out, not through paid ads on my newsfeed, but through organic engagements with the audience that reward creativity. A Twitter full of advertisements that simply explain a product and what it offers would be boring. The best part of social media is the variety of content that is brought to our fingertips; I can watch the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign on one screen and stumble into Evolve’s “Playthings” gun safety PSA in another. Both grab my attention, not because they are at all similar, but because at the time of their premiere, they were very original within their industry. One uses sex toys to teach the audience about gun safety, while the other shocks audience with a serious confrontation of women’s self-confidence, not even mentioning their products.
There are a lot of contradicting methods in a successful advertisement; it has to contrast with tradition, blend into current culture, relate to audiences, and still seem covetable. What captures my attention is an advertisement/brand that takes into account the feedback of their audience and makes it clear that they care not only what their loyal customers think, but also what their critics think. Advertising is more competitive now than ever before, because the number of platforms is rapidly increasing, leaving more opportunities for brands to reach consumers. However, this change also means consumers have more routes to escape advertisers. Advertisers are less likely to succeed through attempting to force their brand on the public, they’ll achieve a wider audience through spiking the consumer’s curiosity. As simple as it sounds curiosity is harder than ever to incite, as virtually endless information is a click away. That’s why the personal aspect of advertising is so important, because human nature is to seek knowledge about things that relate to us. Attention is achieved through intrigue; I want to know what the brand can tell me about myself that I didn’t previously realize.