The bottomless pit that is the consumer’s mind
When consumer products wage wars for market share, the usual battlefield is the media. Brands launch their names and logos into the world of the media and they become avatars slugging it out for prominence in the media landscape. The media is the preferred battlefield because it is the one commodity that is consumed by consumers unceasingly. Day in and day out, week in and week out, and year after year, consumers remain constantly glued to their favorite programs and stations – on television sets at home and radios in their cars; and their preferred printed reading materials – newspapers and magazines, and electronic versions thereof. Although the demise of the print medium has long been predicted, as more and more people now prefer reading stuff on their phones, tablets, and laptops instead of in hard copies, the print medium is still very much around. The media presents an endless stream of both content and advertising, and consumers lap it all up without ever getting satiated. And with the advent of new media (previously referred to as the information superhighway and now known as the internet) with its most popular element, social media, this constant stream of content has simply exploded. There are constantly evolving ever newer forms and platforms for conveying even more content as the internet continues to expand without limits. The newest buzz, TikTok, is simply the latest – just another app on this endless carousel of innovations that the internet offers consumers. The media is also an ideal device for marketing initiatives – it allows for infinite possibilities in terms of how a company can push its brand to the forefront of the collective consumers’ mind.
Media visibility on television is measured in TARPS (Target Audience Rating Points, where one TARP equals one percent of the target audience) and the highest scorer is the one with the biggest SOV (Share of Voice). It is achieved through various means – most commonly by running the most number of spots, where the frequency is opted for in lieu of commercial length as this generates the most number of impressions. You can achieve higher SOV-TARPS with less spots by buying into the higher rating programs. This would mean going for higher efficiencies. This explains why the top rating programs are the most crowded with spots. If you have a lot of spots but not very high TARPS, then you are not so efficient in your buying. SOV is actually also measured in terms of who has the most number of spots (SOV – Spots), as well as who spent the most (SOV – Spend, or Share of Spend), but SOV TARPS would be the most effective metric as it counts delivered impressions, regardless oh how many spots were used or how much they cost. Apart from efficiency in terms of TARP output, you also measure efficiency in terms of cost per TARP delivered (called cost-efficiency). There is a more primitive version of this metric, called “cost-per-thousand” (CPM) – this is a more generic term that refers to all audiences, whether or not they are part of the target.
Alternatively, you could go for overall length of exposure, where a more quality engagement occurs between the brand and the audience – as in AVP’s (Audio-Visual Presentations), PowerPoint presentations, and entire programs devoted to the brand (A.K.A. branded content/entertainment). You may not have the TARPS in this approach, but you would have a richer involvement of the audience with your brand. The best example would be the movie Transformers – it is a 150-minute cinema commercial for Chevrolet.
Either way, it usually means spending loads and loads of money buying media space and time. In the print media this takes the form of the special supplement. But it is certainly not limited to that. It also takes the form of the brochure, the flier or leaflet, the newsletter, the coffee table book and even the commemorative stamp. The most popular version in radio would be the sponsored program, and the best example would be the soap operas, so named because they were fully sponsored by soap brands in the early days of the radio medium, hence the “soap” name for the genre.
The battle for prominence in the media ultimately translates into the battle for the most prominent spot in the consumer’s mind. The research term for this is “top of mind” and it is normally the end goal of all marketing communications. The battle for market share now becomes a battle for share of mind.
Let’s have an analogy. Think of the consumer’s mind as an island accessible only via bridges. Each bridge is a media channel that works like a conveyor belt delivering an endless stream of impressions of various brands into the island. Think of the impressions as little chips with the brands’ logos on them. Marketers are on the opposite end of the bridges and they are all constantly pouring their chips into the bridges. The bridges all terminate at a giant funnel with a steady stream of chips pouring into the island that is the consumer’s mind. As the chips pile up, the brand with the most number of chips eventually becomes the most visible at the top of the heap, with the last one in normally landing the top spot.
The chips also come in various sizes, shapes and colors depending on the form they took and the bridge they used. The bigger ones come in the form of impressively produced TV commercials – the kind you see at the Super Bowl. For outdoor advertising, think extra large billboards, like the kind that Guess Jeans used when they launched some years back. Teeny tiny ones come in the form of print ads the size of a business card, or Craigslist and Google ads.
But the island is also a bottomless pit that swallows the chips by the thousands. And every new day it starts out empty and hungry, ready to swallow ever larger volumes of chips. Like an open-pit mine the island has a gaping wide mouth waiting to be filled. The difference is that in a mine you take out stuff from the pit. In this scenario, you are pouring stuff into the pit.
Now imagine the bridges as animated cartoon characters who are also creating their own chips and joining in the fray by pouring in their own chips. In fact, some of them pour their chips through the other bridges. This is what happens when specific media channels promote themselves on the other media channels – such as when you see print ads and billboards for TV programs, or when you see television commercials for a newspaper or a radio station. As the bridges get more chips passed through them, the more energized they become. They get bigger and more impressive, and attract even more chips to choose going through them versus the other bridges. The hottest bridges make the most money from all the ads that go through them.
That is what it is like to be in the battle for the consumer’s mind.
What about the internet? Think of the internet as yet one more bridge that feeds chips into the bottomless pit. It might be a good idea to think of the bridges as classified into a few types to help us identify them as either print, broadcast, or out-of-home media. Just like the other bridges, the internet also gets used by the other bridges to pour their own chips through. It is in fact the one bridge that all the others use, making it arguably the largest bridge into the island known as the consumer’s mind, and of all of them, is the one that is getting bigger by the day. But this bridge that we know as the internet is more than just one of the bridges. It has one distinct difference: It is the only bridge that has two-way traffic on it.
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