You have probably been hearing a lot lately about the rise of antibiotic resistance. And for good reason: this an issue that could significantly affect our ability to treat even common diseases — cures that all of us currently take for granted.
The issue of course is that, as they multiply, a select number of bacteria aren’t killed by the antibiotic administered. This newly resistant bacteria then spreads and multiplies, creating a new strain that is completely unaffected by the antibiotic. The end result is an arms race, where doctors keep using stronger antibiotics to treat ever more virulent bacterial infections. And when the strongest antibiotic is no longer effective? Well, we’re in a heckuva lotta trouble…
As an online marketer with 21 years of experience running just abut every sort of campaign imaginable, it has occurred to me that a similar phenomenon is plaguing (pardon the pun) the online marketing community: When an online marketing tactic is successful, most agencies and companies quickly adapt it, thereby rendering it ineffective. Let’s call this OMSaR, “Online Marketing Saturation Resistance.”
Some examples? That’s easy. Let’s start way back. Around 1997 the start-up I was working for web company that inked a partnership with a large agency. Part of this work included aggressive ad banner campaigns. After extensive testing, we learned that, for whatever reason, banners with an orange (well, “pumpkin” to be precise) background color performed best. In other words, they received the most clicks. Through their own testing and word-of-mouth as well, other companies learned of this too.
Well, it didn’t take long for every big website to be saturated with orange colored ad banners. Some sites began to look like a semi-completed jack-o-lantern jigsaw puzzles. And what was the result? Web surfing consumers quickly became immune to orange colored ad banners, and click-through rates plummeted.
Now let’s take a more recent example: the eponymous email collection pop-over box. You know what I’m talking about – when you visit a website, often an e-commerce one, and that box appears asking, if not begging, for you to submit your email address.
Of course we all know how important it is to cultivate a strong email re-marketing list, but this pop-over collection method has been positively bludgeoned across the web. And consumers have grown quite tired of it. So much so that marketers now often now stoop to including a purchase discount just for submitting your email address. The arms race is on!
Now that so many sites are trying to coax out our email addresses by blocking their own homepages’ content and resorting to this popover, you can bet the Bounce Rate (the number of visitors who quickly leave a website, taking no desired action) is going up, up, up. I would argue that even the emails being collected this way are of lesser value, especially for marketers who don’t follow-up with a welcoming double-opt-in email, but that’s a topic for another day.
The lesson from both examples — and I could cite many more — is simple: when it comes to online marketing, copying others is never the path to long-term success. Nevah-evah!
Be Strong, Be Creative
What’s the solution to this dilemma? Much like a doctor battling a stubborn bacteria, strength is key to overcoming the challenge of online marketing saturation resistance. In this context, strength alludes to the ability to chart your own course, try something new and stop relying on what the crowd is doing.
When so many online advertisers used orange ad banners, I had my team test mint green instead. Click-through rates rose dramatically. More recently, I talked a client into forgoing the interruptive tactic, as Seth Godin might put it, of the email collection popover box and instead layering email collection in and around the actual content of the website itself. Open and click-through rates of their emails doubled.
Now don’t confuse marketing creativity with not adhering to online marketing best practices. All of us at Concept 5 are well versed in these and will always adhere to things such as proper planning and measurement, privacy policies, consistent branding, calls to action, and so forth. But that doesn’t mean we won’t get creative and test new tactics for every client. We will.
So read online marketing books, peruse all of those marketing blogs — immerse yourself. But when it comes down to your own campaign, getting consumers to act takes something different entirely: something different.