It is said that the typical consumer is exposed to thousands of advertising messages in a day. A typical supermarket carries 40,000 products where only 400 are bought over the course of a year by the average shopper. Across business and personal e-mail, you might get hundreds of e-mails in a day. The only way we survive this demand for our attention without our heads exploding is by having a relevance filter. It has become a relevance world.
Then I started to think, if it’s about relevance it can’t be about reach and frequency. One of the most basic concepts in media planning and buying is past its “sell by” date in digital media.
The basic concept behind reach and frequency planning is that you have finite media resources and it takes a certain number of impressions to have an impact (1or 2 if you are focused on recency thinking; maybe 3-5 if you think you are teaching someone a new message) where more than that leads to waste. Hence, beyond that “optimal frequency” where diminishing returns would set in, you ensure your dollars are buying reach. The problem with this thinking is that in digital media and in stores, messages are pullable by people on their terms based on what is relevant to them. Also, consumers can generate brand messages via sharing which cost you nothing. Certainly an experiment can be designed to prove that in a digital and social media world, consumers define optimal frequency not you the marketer.
If I am getting serious about buying a car, I might search 15 times for something that is auto related. Doesn’t the auto marketer want to be prominent in those results each time? If I go to websites to compare autos and to configure a car, don’t you want to deliver a message each time? As I do other stuff online, wouldn’t it make sense to serve up advertising that is relevant to what I also happen to be shopping for? If I retweet an article via ShareThis on environmentally friendly cars, doesn’t that tell you a lot about me especially if you are in the “green car” business?
Think about fans to a Facebook page for a given brand. This is the ultimate in “frequency capping doesn’t matter” thinking. 14 million or so like the Coca-Cola Facebook page which is probably a small percentage of those who drink Coke among those on Facebook. Yet in a given day, fans post hundreds of comments on the wall. Low reach, huge frequency but no one is capping how many messages are allowed in a day. In this context, we don’t think about frequency we think about engagement…building a fan base that represents a brand runway that Coke has created.
When you have a pullable medium, meaning I can seek out the brand messages, rather than them seeking me out, like the fabric of digital touchpoints represents, relevance and availability become more important concepts than frequency. Serve as many digital messages that are relevant as you can that either you or fans create. That is what the digital opportunity is about for marketers…consumer requested and consumer-generated content in relevant ways.Acknowledgement: I thank Craig McDonald, CMO for Covario, for this blog as the phrase “reach and relevance not reach and frequency” came out during our recent lunch conversation in New York.