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MBPT Spotlight: How To Keep Your Message Relevant In a World of Infrequency

Welcome to the world of infrequency, where things you post and intend to have an effect disappear in a blink. Yes, it’s true: There remains a long tail of information on the Web. And that’s great—if you’re searching for something. But if you’re a marketer trying to get someone’s attention in this short attention span world, it’s that much more of a challenge to get anyone to eagerly search for your message.

Whether we’re talking about TV, Web video or simple display ads online, consumers are bombarded with messages to the point that they frequently tend to ignore them. This is not a knock on creativity, it’s a tenet of human behavior. Ever find yourself watching the news to get the weather report, only to get saturated by so much weather information that you lose track of the actual forecast? Now, think about the times you’ve seen three car ads in a single ad pod. No wonder researchers have so much fun assigning attribution.

Some of my media colleagues will now jump in and assume I’m advocating frequency over reach, but that’s not what this is about. Both reach and frequency are important and have their place in constructing a media plan. And of course there are now plenty of tactics to get people’s attention, from pre-roll and home page takeovers to longer-form TV ads.

All of which puts a huge premium on what I’m talking about: The ability of people to retain specific messaging in the face of the bombardment they receive all day long. It’s really about creating content that a viewer recognizes immediately as part of a series, so they quickly register. I refer to this as the “Recognition Bar,” and the idea is to lower it so people don’t have to work too hard to get your invitation.

We’re all tempted in the digital age to try a lot of different approaches to finding the one message that’s going to resonate. Ironically, that raises the Recognition Bar, not lowers it.

The best way to lower the bar is to stick with a message you’ve tested and sculpted, so when a new version arrives, viewers will recognize it as yours and remember it. Too often brands are eager to go on to something different when they haven’t come close to the burnout we used to worry about when there were a lot fewer media channels.

The biggest challenge for advertisers today is how to fill all the various media channels and, to what purpose. TV, digital and social should all complement each other in way that solidifies our image of the brand. Putting one cool piece of content into a channel and thinking that will amplify a personality just won’t work; audiences move on too fast. YouTube is littered with what the record industry so aptly labels “one-hit wonders.”

Just to be clear, I’m not advocating simple repetition. I’m advocating building a personality based on a consistent stream of content that complements and reinforces the image of the brand. In social, where the need for content is exploding, that means using miniseries that have legs and that audiences remember. Miniseries can overlap, just the way television networks have defined daily themes, but the best networks now know to define themselves by a particular personality, which is a reflection of all their programming. Brands need to think the same way.

It’s not hard to understand how millennials have chosen channels such as Buzzfeed and Vice for infotainment. Each has a formula and sticks to it. Ironically, it’s the same for some of those YouTube stars that draw millions of views every week. What they have in common is that they’ve created a personality and have stuck to it. And that is the antidote to infrequency.

Find your personality and stick to it, nurture it and bring that Recognition Bar down. That’s how to survive and thrive in a world of infrequency.

Rednor is cofounder and partner at New York-based brand strategy and creative boutique agency Protagonist. He is also president of Rednor Group Ltd., a management consulting and merchant banking company, and board chairman of Upshot, a promotion and marketing agency in Chicago. Prior to that, he was cofounder of Conductor, a branded content company in Los Angeles. He was also president and chief operating officer of what was then called DraftWorldwide, from 1997-2003.