Marketing Fundamentals: Brand And The Problem Of Clutter

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By Hayley James, Managing Director


An article about the awareness of marketing fundamentals written by Professor Mark Ritson in Marketing caught my eye. Professor Ritson is an internationally renown marketing consultant and teaches marketing and brand management on MBA programs at London Business School, Melbourne Business School and others. Professor Ritson, ” While content marketers may reject the traditional marketing approach, the awareness of marketing fundamentals would serve practitioners well.” We are taken back to a time way back when someone crafted a message or thought on a stone and another person replied. Advertising at this moment had started. Then following on another person, then another responded. The phenomenon of Clutter had started.


Professor Ritson, ” Clutter is the common term we use to describe the over application of advertising messages to a particular medium.” We find this over application ultimately leads to lower effectiveness and can in some cases, result in the medium itself being undermined. Over time as the medium became more cluttered, the advertising messages became increasingly extrovert and annoying to stand out. These observations can help us to avoid the trap of trying too hard to get our message across and in doing so complicate what should be a simple, clear and straightforward message free of clutter.


The direct marketing field is represented as one which has turned sour. At the beginning Lester Wunderman invented direct marketing, post WW11 in the US. This medium became successful quickly as relevant consumers appreciated the clear and useful messages it supported. Professor Ritson, ” Jump forward half a century and Wunderman’s vision has crashed. Rather than welcoming it, we abhor direct mail and telemarketing with a passion. So endemic is our hatred we call it junk mail and actual bills and letters have to exclaim, real letter, do not throw out to avoid being binned with  all the marketing missives we receive and immediately trash without opening.”


It pays to advertise, however we must be more subtle in our messaging. Too much of the same thing and consumers become defensive about accepting our propositions. It’s best to create an idea, surround it with simplicity and deliver with maximum impact. Develop the idea that our clients would like to become interested in what we have to say. Deliver the proposal based on the premise that less is more.


We find in this article that instead of targeted useful mailings we are bombarded with offers for entirely irrelevant products and services because providing one per cent of the target group are interested brushing aside the other ninety nine per cent still delivers very strong rate of interest. Then compared with Wunderman’s vision in 1949 in what began as a targeted, revolutionary marketing tool has been ruined by clutter. This leads us to the question of waste. The position that say, a large majority of our work will, be wasted to ensure that a large minority will be effective does not have a place in today’s business world where cost and efficiency reign supreme.


The latest manifestation of marketing communications is with content marketing. Professor Ritson,” Content marketing is barely out of its tactical starting blocks and already many exponents are complaining about the the increasing amount of content being created and the corresponding decline in audience impact.” We see how millions of content items are uploaded to Facebook, Twitter and You Tube every day. Author Ekaterina Walter observes,” You’ve probably noticed that it’s becoming rather difficult to make your content stand out from the digital noise. If you’re wondering what on earth is happening, people can only consume so much content at any given time, and there’s simply too much out there these days.” For us then is a matter of being selective. Think before we post. It’s obvious our customers don’t want to be under water with too much content to digest. We need to be part of the digital world and should not dismiss the importance of playing our role in it. Just think about how much better we can deliver our messages so that they catch attention with interesting and relevant content structured in simple terms.


Professor Ritson puts it this way, ” The problem for content marketers is twofold. They have managed to convince themselves that they are not in the business of actually selling anything, but rather they are specialists in the generation of content. So perhaps unsurprisingly the general solution to the current clutter problem of you ask content marketers is, more content done in a better way.” Ritson speaks about being more targeted, be more daring, more passionate, more objective. We see how the working environment full of clutter shows that as a content marketer you have arrived.


The message that comes through is that clutter signals that as a marketer you have arrived. Ritson, ” Remember that clutter means you are now a proper, grown up marketing tool. A broader awareness of the discipline of marketing would help content marketers understand the nature of clutter and the fallacy that it can somehow be avoided.”


Clutter will always be part of the landscape of a marketer. Accept this and retain an awareness that it comes with the job. Then there will be no excuses if it becomes a vital piece of your identity that blends you with the majority. Unburden yourself with the clutter and stick to the point, always searching for the heart of the content that you will be able to share so easily with your audience to create customer value and engagement.

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