The failure of advertising

Friends, knowing of my professional interest in memes, occasionally contact me to say ‘have you seen 'X', it’s going viral’.  The 'X' in question is usually a joke, or a Facebook posting, or a Youtube video, or another stupid cat meme.  

Not once have they contacted me to say ‘have you seen that great new advert for breakfast cereal, it’s going viral’.  That’s hardly surprising, because there is nothing about adverts for breakfast cereal that makes you want to pass them on or even talk about them. So now I wantt to talk about the use of memetics in advertising.

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Advertising fatigue

In Going viral, we talked about the failure of exponential growth when the zombies failed to find enough New Yorkers to chomp on, and how this resulted in an S-shaped logistic function.

Saturation effects also appear in advertising, where constant exposure to adverts does not increase adoption of the payload meme and can even reduce adoption, and no matter how much money you throw at trying to spread your memes, it's not going to help.  For some reason, the advertising industry fails to mention that to its clients....

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Building a better advert

We've seen why adverts dont 'go viral', how they become increasingly ineffective if not outright toxic, and why advertising is the wrong approach in a mature market. I should imagine at this point that I am not too popular with the marketing profession...

But having said all that, can we use an understanding of memetics to improve brand management and advertising? Of course we can...

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Selling in saturated markets

It costs a lot less to keep a new customer than to get a new one, but industries such as insurance spend far more on advertising wars than they do on customer retention. This is just plain dumb: it is the defection rate that drives market share, and there are no trapping states in a commoditised market.

Read more: Selling in saturated markets