Exploring the Link Between Marketing and Psychology

What do marketing and psychology have to do with one another? A great deal more than you might expect. In many ways, they’re two sides of the same coin.

Ask anyone who works in marketing why they decided to pursue that particular career path, and you’ll receive a multitude of answers. 

Some people will maintain that they enjoy the opportunity to flex their creativity; they enjoy the fact that they essentially are paid to create art. Others enjoy the mercurial nature of the profession, the fact that no two days are exactly the same. Still, more love how fast-paced the industry tends to be and that it allows them to blaze from one deadline to the next (often procrastinating until the last minute all the while). 

But one of the most common answers is that marketing involves people. 

Figuring out how an audience thinks and what they want. Determining the best way to build a relationship between a brand and its customers. Crafting compelling messaging that fascinates people enough to convert. 

In other words, getting inside each consumer’s mind and figuring out how they think, how they feel, what they’re interested in, and ultimately, what makes them tick. There’s something exciting about that. And something is satisfying about finishing a project and watching as it successfully creates engagement. 

The connection between marketing and psychology is about more than satisfaction, though. Learning more about how people think goes a long way towards being better at your job. The deeper your understanding of the human mind, the more effective your marketing will become. 

As it stands, there are already multiple psychological principles underlying the profession — you probably even encounter several of them in your day-to-day without realizing it: 

  • Priming. Exposure to one stimulus influences how you react to another. This comes into play with everything from a brand’s language to the colors/layout of its website. 
  • Social proof. The idea is that people make decisions based on the actions of others. Social shares, reviews, and word-of-mouth marketing are all examples of social proof in play. 
  • Reciprocity. When someone gives you a gift or does a good deed, you feel compelled to return the favor.  Most commonly comes into play with free gifts/offers. 
  • Loss aversion. Simply put, when given a choice between loss and gain, people will choose to gain. In marketing, this might involve selling subscription services or free trials. 
  • Anchoring bias. The first piece of information someone sees will influence how they evaluate further information. This is why most stores display the original price of a product next to the sale price. 
  • Verbatim effect. People are likely to remember the gist of what they’ve been told rather than the exact wording. 
  • Scarcity. People are likely to make a snap decision on a purchase if what they’re buying is of limited quantity. They’re also likely to rank a scarcer product more highly. 
  • Decoy effect. When a customer is choosing between two options, the introduction of a third, less compelling option will make them likelier to choose a more expensive option. 
  • Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. Essentially, this refers to selective attention. When you see or hear about a particular product, you’re likely to start noticing it in advertisements and the like.
  • Clustering. The tendency of people to group similar words and concepts together in their short-term memory. 

What we’ve listed above is just a small sampling. There are other concepts at play, as well. But that should be enough to give you an idea of how much interplay there is between the two disciplines. And with that, we’ll leave off with a bit of advice on how you can amp up your knowledge of psychology to become a better marketing professional. Here’s the good news. Especially in the wake of COVID, there are a ton of free educational resources available online to help you learn more about the human mind — we recommend EdX in particular.

Has Facebook Become Too Volatile Even for Marketers?

Facebook has effectively become the poster child for everything wrong with social media. But does that mean it’s no longer a suitable marketing tool?

The past few years haven’t exactly been great for Facebook. The social media organization has seen itself rocked by multiple scandals, including, per NPR, being called out by its own oversight board for the sorry state of its decision making. And that’s to say nothing of the fear, uncertainty, anger, and misinformation currently running riot through the social network. 

While Facebook certainly made a good show of accepting feedback and addressing how it deals with community standards violations, it remains to be seen if those efforts have borne any fruit. Just last year, 40% of respondents to a Canadian Internet Authority survey indicated that Facebook is the most toxic social network on the Internet, with 63% indicating they do not feel safe from harassment. And per BBC, false information is still on the social network, despite the company’s stated commitment to curbing its spread. 

It’s clear at this point that something about the social network is fundamentally broken — and there’s no singular cause. 

One might point to the fact that Facebook relies too much on artificial intelligence to enforce its rules. Time and again, Facebook’s community standards AI has completely failed at its stated purpose. It allows homophobia, transphobia, and racism to skirt under the radar — case in point, Snopes reports that QAnon still thrives on the social network more than a year after Facebook publicly announced it would remove such content.

Worse still, when those posts are manually reported, the response, contradictorily, is that they do not violate community standards. Meanwhile, the algorithm, absent human guidance and incapable of understanding context, comes down like a hammer on people of color discussing their experiences with racism (USA Today).  Two months ago, an anti-trans post on Instagram, one of Facebook’s subsidiaries, led to open violence, according to The Guardian

Not that Facebook’s human moderators are any better. According to The Verge, content moderators for the social network are underpaid, overworked, and lack access to even basic mental health services. All this while moderating some of the most troubling, traumatizing content Facebook has to offer. 

One might also point to the fact that if you encounter any serious issues with Facebook and require any help, you’re out of luck. Facebook still does not employ customer support staff — making it perhaps the only major tech company to take such a hands-off approach. It’s bad enough that, as reported by Techdirt, hacked Facebook users had to buy a $300 VR headset just to talk to a human being

The truth is that Facebook’s current state is a perfect storm of all the above factors forcibly colliding with the myriad stressors of the pandemic. And the result? From a marketing standpoint, it’s one of the most volatile channels on the Internet. 

Consider last year, when per Input, multiple major brands abandoned the platform due to its inaction over hate speech. Or there’s a December 2020 piece from Bloomberg which saw testimony from multiple advertisers harmed by arbitrary punishments, nonsensical ad rejections, and unjustified lockouts. Or Adweek’s report earlier this month that Facebook is flagging lingerie ads as nudity.  

As if having to contend with the inconsistent algorithm isn’t bad enough, there’s a good chance that, at this point, your marketing might not even reach a receptive audience. In a poll published last August, analyst Pew Research found that 55% of U.S. social media users felt ‘worn out’ by political posts. Brandwatch’s 2020 Consumer Tech Report, meanwhile, saw a 41% increase in mentions of social media fatigue over just ten months.

So, to summarize: 

  • Facebook’s community has grown increasingly volatile, marked by frequent arguments and heated political debates. 
  • Facebook’s inconsistent community standards algorithm appears to apply arbitrary judgments without regard for context, impacting regular users and marketers. 
  • People on Facebook are frustrated and exhausted, and therefore much less amenable to marketing messages. 

In short, Facebook is no longer the fun, community-driven network it used to be. It’s become something else — something ugly. While there’s arguably still value to be had by establishing a presence there, before long, the drawbacks of Facebook marketing may outweigh the rewards.

At this point, it might just be time to turn your attention to Tik Tok. 

Are You Targeting Too Broad a Niche With Your Marketing?

The most successful marketing is nearly always focused and directed. As such, if you target a niche that’s too general, you’re going to run into a few issues.

Jack of all trades, master of none.

That old saying is surprisingly applicable to the approach some businesses take with their marketing.  Instead of trying to figure out who they’re marketing to and the context in which that marketing is being executed, they simply allow themselves to dive in face-first. It’s akin to attempting skydiving without a parachute. 

Sure, you might make it through. It’s far likelier, however,  that you’ll end up a stain on the ground. Alright, we’ll grant that it’s not a perfect analogy — but it gets the point across just the same.

For your marketing efforts to meet with real success, you need to define your niche. 

Finding Your Niche: The Questions You Must Ask

The right niche is a perfect blend of relevant, untapped, and compelling. It’s something you can write about without too much difficulty and which resonates with you as much as your brand. With that in mind, here’s what you should consider when seeking a niche. 

  • How competitive is it? 
  • How much do I know about it? Can I cover it with a reasonable degree of authority? 
  • Who is interested in this niche? 
  • Would this niche’s primary audience also be interested in my brand? 
  • Can this niche be tied back to any of my products/services? 
  • How active is this niche/how much traffic can I expect it to generate? 

How Can You Tell if Your Niche is Too Broad?

We see a lot of businesses take the ‘kitchen sink’ approach to content creation. They shotgun ideas across multiple niches and topics, hoping that at least one of their shots will be a winner. They don’t realize that when your target audience can be best summed up as “yes,” you’re going to run into trouble.

The people who might be genuinely interested in your products or services might see the eclectic collection of blog posts and reconsider. And the people brought in by a blog that’s too general likely aren’t going to turn into qualified leads.

But how exactly can you tell if you’re targeting too general a niche? 

  • A high bounce rate on specific pages or posts.
  • High traffic numbers, low conversions. 
  • Your list of topics could fill an entire page in a Word document. 
  • You cannot describe your niche in just a few words.

Granted, not all of the above are surefire signs that your niche is too broad. But they are all red flags. The good news is that now that you’re aware of them, they’re that much easier for you to avoid. 

As for how you might narrow your niche if you already stumbled headlong into one that’s too broad? Examine your most popular content for common threads, look at what competitors are doing, and most importantly, ask your colleagues/team for any advice they might be able to offer.

Do all that, and you’ll be just fine. 

Facebook’s Issue With Scam Adverts Speak to Deeper Problems on the Platform

Recently, Facebook failed to remove fraudulent ads from its platform. This isn’t just Facebook’s failure, but speaks to a larger problem with advertising.

As reported by The BBC, both Google and Facebook failed to remove a large percentage of fraudulent ads from their platforms. The former failed to remove 34% of reported ads, while the latter failed to remove 26%, according to a report from consumer watchdog Which?. More concerning, however, was the fact that of those who fell victim to a scam ad, 43% of people didn’t report it.

In Facebook’s case, it was because they doubted anything would be done. A fair assessment, given the social network’s completely uneven enforcement of community standards and complete lack of customer support. With Google, it was because the victim had no idea how to report the scam.

“Tech giants, regulators, and the government need to go to greater lengths to prevent scams from flourishing,” Which? consumer rights expert Adam French told BBC. “Online platforms must be given a legal responsibility to identify, remove and prevent fake and fraudulent content on their sites… and the government needs to act now.”

The lack of reporting isn’t the issue here, though. The problem is that although advertising has functionally been on life support for years, nothing tangible has changed. Even though 96% of people don’t even trust ads, advertisers and ad networks are still chugging along just like they always have.

There needs to be more regulation. Advertisements need to be held to a higher standard. And perhaps most importantly, platforms like Facebook need to stop dodging accountability for spreading harmful content. 

And it’s not just scams that are the issue. Malvertising remains one of the most common delivery mechanisms for malicious software, and simultaneously remains one of the best justifications for using ad blocking software. Moreover, as noted by the Sophos 2021 Threat Report, two new tactics have been circulating lately. 

  • Fake alert attacks. These technical support scams attempt to convince the user that they’ve been locked out of their computer or try to drive them to contact a fraudulent helpline. 
  • Fleeceware. Shady application developers are charging a premium for basic applications, and malicious advertisements help direct potential victims to their scams.

It never had to be this way. Advertisers could have taken to heart the myriad issues people have with ad networks. Platforms like Facebook and Google could have practiced greater accountability and exercised greater control over their ads. 

Instead, what we have is an industry that’s in even more dire straits than ever before. We have paid advertisements that generate questionable returns and an entire generation of consumers who view advertising as just more spam. If that’s to change, there needs to be better reporting, more effective removal of bad ads, and overall better quality control.

Because without these elements, advertising deserves to die.

What You Need to Know About Marketing Yourself as a Creative

Whether you’re an artist, an artisan, or a designer, spreading the word about your work can seem daunting. It’s easier than you might think, though.

Creatives don’t get enough credit. 

On at least one occasion, every artist has been told that they should look for a “real job.” In the face of such attitudes, it’s easy to grow discouraged. It’s easy to think that no one could possibly be interested in buying what you’re selling.

But that’s far from true. The value of art goes beyond what it can do for a business. And whether you’re a freelancer, an entrepreneur selling their crafts online, or a business-minded creative who wants to start their own studio, you can find success with some hard work, a bit of luck, and (perhaps most importantly) an effective marketing strategy.

Let’s go over a bit of advice to help you get started. 

Have a Plan

Think carefully about what you want to do, the audience you want to reach, and where you want to reach them. A Facebook crafting group, for instance, will have different priorities than an Instagram influencer. Each will require a different approach and may be interested in other elements of your portfolio. 

Make a List

Especially for a first-timer, marketing can seem overwhelming. By looking at projects not as singular, monolithic entities but collections of smaller tasks, you’re giving yourself some space to breathe. More importantly, you make it easier to justify taking a break since you can actually see measurable progress.  

Build Relationships

Creating a more substantial presence in your local art community and beyond starts with collaboration. Working with other artists ensures you have people you can bounce ideas off. Someone who’s more entrenched in the community can also offer you valuable advice about getting yourself established while also recommending your work to others. 

You can (and should) collaborate with more than just the people who share your craft, too. For example, let’s say you’re an artisan who makes custom ceramics. You might consider approaching a photographer, offering them your services in exchange for theirs. 

It’s a win for both creators. 

Don’t Settle

There’s no point putting time or effort into marketing if you’re using improper techniques or cheap materials. No one wants to buy a product that looks terrible or breaks in an instant. You need to make sure you can quickly produce quality work and price it competitively. 

To be fair, this one might go without saying. After all, most people who seek a career in a creative field tend to be extreme perfectionists. And almost every creative has a small mountain of unacceptable’ projects that will never again see the light of day. 

Create a Unique Brand

Creative markets are now more oversaturated than ever, meaning it’s difficult to set yourself apart. The best advice we can offer here is to look at what others in your market have done and think about how you can do it better. You might consider looking at online reviews for weaknesses in competing products or simply studying how leading professionals do their work.

Products aside, you also need to create a brand for yourself. When someone looks at your products, you want them to think of not just your artwork, but you. 

Build a High-Quality Website

Contacting you or purchasing your art should be seamless and secure regardless of the user’s device. Your website is the first impression any customer will have of your artwork. You do not want that impression to be tainted by poor mobile optimization, terrible performance, or bad design. 

Above All, Just Be Human

Often, when a creative starts plying their craft professionally, they lose something. They stop putting as much of themselves into their art, instead focusing on what sells. Don’t fall into this trap. 

Do not be afraid to add personal work to your portfolio. Passion and a personal touch together can be incredibly magnetic. Never lose sight of that, and never forget what made your art great in the first place.

Finally, when you’re taking your first steps into the world of ecommerce, be kind to yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. People are imperfect; it’s part of the beauty of life. 

The difference between someone who’s successful and someone who isn’t is not that the former doesn’t make mistakes — it’s that they learn from those mistakes. 

3 Things April Fool’s Day Can Teach Us About Digital Marketing

Every year, businesses attempt to convey their humor on April Fool’s Day. And every year, many bungle their attempts. There’s a lesson to be learned in that.

German automotive manufacturer Volkswagen has, reports Mashable, learned exactly how not to approach April Fool’s Day as a brand. On March 29, the automaker’s U.S. subsidiary claimed that it would be rebranding itself to Voltswagen of America as part of its commitment to sustainability. It even published a full press release on the change. 

Get it? Volts? Like electric cars? Do you get the joke? 

One day later, The Wall Street Journal reported that no, the company is not planning a rebrand. The announcement was, in fact, part of a marketing campaign for the company’s recently-released ID.4 electric SUV. Reportedly, the renaming was meant to be ‘playful and fun.’ 

The joke fell flat on its face for several reasons — and each of these lessons can serve as a valuable lesson for marketers. 

Know Your Brand’s Reputation

Volkswagen’s reputation where sustainability is concerned isn’t exactly clean. As reported by MIT News, the company spent years lying about its vehicle emissions, even going so far as to install devices designed to break emissions testing in its cars. Environmental conservatorship is not something a brand with Volkswagen’s history should be joking about. 

Mashable’s Jack Morse noted that when accounting for Volkswagen’s history, this publicity stunt’s message appears to be that it views green energy as a joke

Stay In Character

Some brands are built on comedy. They make a name for themselves on social media by being sarcastic, irreverent, or simply absurd.  Their personalities are geared towards millennials and Generation Z, and they remain consistent in never taking themselves seriously unless they absolutely must. 

Denny’s is a perfect example of this, regularly posting bizarre content on its Tumblr page that its target audience can’t help but enjoy. Wendy’s also exemplifies this trend, regularly roasting both its audience and its competitors. If either of these brands did something ridiculous for April Fool’s Day, no one would bat an eye. 

If a brand that was known for generally taking things seriously suddenly turned around and started trying to make bad jokes, though? That’s jarring. It’s another reason the Voltswagen stunt failed so spectacularly.

It came completely out of left field and was in no way consistent with Volkswagen’s previous online behavior. 

We aren’t saying your brand shouldn’t occasionally do something fun, nor are we trying to claim that there’s no place for corporate April Fool’s jokes, just that those jokes should be appropriate for your brand. They should be something your audience would actually find funny. 

Avoid Mixed Messages

Volkswagen wanted to have its cake and eat it too. It tried to do something ‘fun’ for April Fool’s Day, but it also wanted to advertise its new product. Unfortunately, the result was a jumbled mess that pulled the audience in two directions at once.

When you’re planning a marketing campaign, stick to a few core, interrelated objectives. Keep your messaging concise and focused. Because the more mixed signals you put out, the likelier you are to stumble headlong into a media circus. 

Just Don’t Overdo It

Ultimately, there’s a time and a place for comedy. As a marketer, you need to learn to recognize that. Otherwise, you’re bound to make the same mistake as Volkswagen’s marketing team. 

How (and Why) Your Business Should Apologize For Its Mistakes

From influencers to major businesses, people seem to have forgotten how to apologize. But if your brand messes up, that’s something you need to remember.

Nobody’s perfect. Everyone from the freshest intern to the highest-paid CEO makes mistakes now and then. Yet many of them seem incapable of what comes next — apologizing and resolving to be better. 

Recently, we’ve begun watching a YouTube channel called Observe.  Hosted by professional body language analyst Logan Portenier, one of the channel’s primary content streams involves analyzing influencers’ apologies for everything from ignoring COVID restrictions to being party to unsavory behavior. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of these apologies share a common theme.

They’re entirely insincere. 

A BluePrint For An Ineffective Apology

If you’ve spent any time following the recent controversy surrounding YouTuber David Dobrik and his group “The Vlog Squad,” you’ve doubtless seen shades of this. As reported by Mashable, Dobrik has himself posted two separate apology videos. We’re not going to get into what transpired, as in addition to being triggering for victims of assault, it’s not our focus here. 

If you’re interested in learning more, you can read the article we linked above. Instead, we’re going to look at what Dobrik did wrong in both cases. Because together, they form a very effective framework for how not to apologize for a brand crisis.  

In Dobrik’s first video, which fans and critics have widely panned, his mistakes are glaringly evident. 

  • Sweeping it under the rug. The apology was posted to Dobrik’s Podcast channel, Views, rather than his official channel. The former has only 1.7 million subscribers as opposed to the latter’s nearly 20 million. 
  • Dodging the issue. Dobrik never directly addressed the allegations against his brand, instead speaking in vague terms about consent. 
  • No dialog allowed. Despite the video being titled Let’s Talk, Dobrik disabled comments. 
  • A lack of commitment. The total length of the video is only two and a half minutes. Given the seriousness of the allegations against The Vlog Squad, most felt that was nowhere near enough time. 
  • Obligation, not authenticity. Portenier refers to Dobrik’s apology as “hollow,’ noting from his body language that it’s clear Dobrik doesn’t seem to particularly care about rectifying the issue. 

Unsurprisingly, this video was not well-received. After losing over 100,000 subscribers and multiple brand partnerships, Dobrik posted a second video a week later to his main channel. He did a lot of things right this time. 

He owned the fact that he messed up. He at least appeared genuinely remorseful. He asserted that moving forward, he will be implementing checks and balances so that something like this need not happen again and has delisted the videos associated with the controversy.

But he still made mistakes. 

  • Too little, too late.  Instead of getting ahead of the issue, Dobrik waited until he began suffering direct and severe consequences from the controversy. This has led some to assert that the YouTuber isn’t actually sorry that any of this happens, only that it’s directly impacted him. 
  • Poorly-staged. As some have noted, Dobrik went to great lengths to look pitiable, being close to tears, appearing disheveled, and filming his apology from the floor. 

“If [Dobrik] had come out and immediately apologized and immediately went to the people, that would at least show that he [recognized and owned up] to his idiocy,” Portenier notes in his analysis of the second apology. “Dobrik’s apology is genuine [but] perhaps for the wrong reasons.” 

Why Should Your Brand Care About Apologizing?  

In Dobrik’s case, the degree to which he mismanaged his apology has damaged his brand, perhaps irreparably. Just two days after his second video, YouTube demonetized his channels. Insider reports that Dobrik has, as a result of the controversy, lost nearly everything (content warning: SA).  

Per a study published by Science Daily, economists found that people are over twice as likely to forgive a brand that genuinely apologizes.  As reported by The New York Times, when a doctor honestly admitted their mistakes to patients, they were significantly less likely to take legal action. A good apology, in other words, costs nothing. Ignoring a problem or failing to apologize, meanwhile, can cost you everything. 

As for what’s involved in an effective apology, let’s refer back to Dobrik. 

  • Recognize the problem as soon as possible. The sooner you realize you messed up, the better.
  • Don’t try to dodge accountability. Be honest about what went wrong and why. 
  • Show that you genuinely care. Don’t just say you’re sorry. Mean it. 
  • Resolve to be better. Explain what you’ll do to improve in the future, and don’t make promises you can’t keep. 
  • Explanations, not excuses. Don’t try to go into the reasons things went wrong. 

Everyone makes mistakes, even the most prominent brands. The capacity to recognize and apologize for those mistakes can be the difference between repairing one’s reputation or damaging it beyond repair. 

YouTube is Considering Hiding Dislike Counts. Here’s Why That’s a Mistake.

Today on features no one asked for nor wanted, YouTube is thinking of hiding dislikes on its videos. That’s a bad thing.

Interaction is at the core of social media. Reactions on Facebook. Likes and Retweets on Twitter, Likes and Dislikes on YouTube.

It turns out that last one’s due for a change — a change literally nobody wanted.

“In a response to creator feedback around well-being and targeted dislike campaigns, we’re testing a few new designs that don’t show the public dislike count,” YouTube announced on its official Twitter on Wednesday. “If you’re part of this small experiment, you might spot one of these designs in the coming weeks.” 

It’s fortunate for YouTube that Twitter doesn’t have a dislike button. The announcement has been met with almost universal derision from some of YouTube’s top creators, and the only place we’ve seen even the remotest amount of praise for the decision are publications that likely aren’t even on the platform.  We cannot help but wonder who asked for this. 

Because it certainly wasn’t the creators who have for years been YouTube’s bread and butter.

YouTube’s reasoning for the decision, explained in a community forum post, makes very little sense. According to the company, the decision is intended to protect creators from targeted dislike campaigns. Said creators will still see the exact number of likes and dislikes in their studio, but the ratio will otherwise remain invisible to others.

The problem is that this ratio has long been a measure of content quality. Good content — informative, entertaining, fact-based, and valuable — accrues more likes, while bad content trends in the opposite direction. There’s also one other tiny detail YouTube is fecklessly side-stepping with this charade.

Its copyright claim system is utterly broken and has been for years. Even a cursory search brings up countless stories of creators who saw their livelihoods destroyed via fraudulent claims. There are multiple ‘creatives’ who are infamous for this, and BBC reports that extortionists regularly abuse it

The problem is that the entire system puts the onus of proof on the creator. The person filing the claim barely has to prove a thing. And if more than several videos receive copyright strikes, YouTube terminates the channel that uploaded them. 

And all this happens before the channel’s owner even has an opportunity to defend themselves. 

Jim Sterling, a reviewer and journalist with nearly one million subscribers, was subjected to so many fraudulent copyright strikes that Youtube implemented protections against it. Yet, that still didn’t stop a developer from recently attempting to get their channel removed from the platform. They only managed to reinstate themselves by threatening legal action, reports Heavy, and the man responsible is still filing copyright strikes against them.

If YouTube is actually interested in preventing “targeted harassment,” it needs to listen to its creators. It needs to address the actual vehicle through which people are being harassed and abused on its platform. It needs to get rid of ContentID and fix its fundamentally broken copyright system.

Until it does, it doesn’t matter how much it says it wants to protect its creators; it’s just shouting empty words into the void. 

No, Cookie Walls Do Not Work. No, You Should Never Use Them.

As a result of the GDPR, some websites have begun requiring that users consent to tracking cookies. This does not, nor will it ever, be a feasible tactic. Here’s why.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation has been described by some as the death knell for programmatic advertising (via Ad Exchanger). Its strict rules surrounding personal data and consent make learning about and targeting one’s audience with personalized marketing significantly more difficult. Some websites and publications have created a new type of content wall — the cookie wall. 

It’s not as delicious as it sounds. On the contrary, it’s one of the stupidest, most blatant attempts at data harvesting yet. Locking off content until a user agrees to give you their personal information is not consent. 

Per TechCrunch, regulators even confirmed this in 2019, noting that the consent obtained from cookie walls is neither specific, informed, nor freely given. Nor is it consent if a user continues to passively browse your site without hitting ‘accept.’ And no matter how much you claim to respect everyone’s privacy, the use of such a scummy technique demonstrates that you don’t care about your audience.

You’re just interested in harvesting your audience’s data. 

In 2021, that kind of attitude is both archaic and unacceptable. At this point, some of you are probably wondering what alternative even exists. How can you effectively monetize your content and target your advertising without the capacity to collect user data? 

Simple — by being completely transparent with your users about what you’re doing. If you must request customer data, do not block out any of the on-page content. More importantly, give them the option to reject your tracking cookies.

Will that make targeted advertising more difficult? Probably. Will it make market research more challenging? Certainly. 

But the marketing landscape has been moving inexorably away from advertising for decades now. In 2018, reports Forbes, analyst firm The McCarthy Group released research indicating that 84 percent of millennials neither liked nor trusted traditional marketing, though 58 percent don’t mind paid promotions viewed to support their favorite influencers. 

There are other ways to learn about your audience without violating the GDPR, as well: 

  • Offer discount codes/special deals to customers who fill out a survey or consent to ad tracking. Note that you need to explicitly establish what you’re doing and why to ensure consent is informed. 
  • Interact with your customers as people, not leads. Engage with them on websites like Facebook and Twitter. Learn about who they are, what they enjoy, where their interests lay. Instead of using ads to push your products, provide them with an experience. 
  • Collaborate. Find other businesses that cater to your target audience, and reach out to them. Work with them to create marketing partnerships that benefit both parties. 

The GDPR represents the first death knell for traditional data collection and marketing analytics, but this is hardly a bad thing. Advertising has been stagnant for several years now, with agencies skating by on passively-harvested data. We believe that the GDPR and other similar regulations are just the kick in the pants it needs to start genuinely innovating again. 

3 Important Lessons the Games Industry Can Teach Us About Marketing

Gaming is now a multibillion-dollar industry. The unique characteristics of this sector and their associated challenges have the potential to convey some valuable lessons to marketers and advertisers.

According to video game analyst Newzoo, the worldwide gaming market is slated to reach approximately $200 billion by 2023.  For context, the video streaming market — which saw explosive growth during COVID-19 — is predicted by analyst Kenneth Research to reach around $102 billion over this same time period. Video games, in other words, have become a massive global market, a titan of digital entertainment.

Gaming is also unique as entertainment mediums are concerned, with an extremely high level of interactivity and multiple revenue streams and marketing channels that are unavailable in traditional media. This coupled with gaming’s rapid growth over the past several decades can teach us some incredibly valuable lessons about how we shape our own branding and marketing. 

Demographics Can Change, and You Need to Adapt

As noted by industry publication gamesindustry.biz, there is a demonstrably false preconception that video games are exclusively the domain of white, cis-gendered males. At one point in the past, maybe that was true — gaming, like tech, has in the past been markedly hostile towards multiple marginalized groups. But this is no longer the case.

The core demographic of the games industry has changed entirely, and studios need to pull their heads out of the sand and get with the time. Demographics change. Just because your core customer base falls into one category today, that doesn’t mean it always will.

An industry shift can open up a business to an entirely new world, and it’s imperative that you understand that.

The Best Brand in the World Can’t Save a Shoddy Product

For years, Polish game development studio CD Projekt Red (CDPR) was among the most beloved brands in the games industry. They were widely held to be a pro-consumer organization, focused on quality, user rights, and creativity. Then they released Cyberpunk 2077 and completely shattered every illusion we had, setting fire to their brand almost as spectacularly as stock trading app Robin Hood. 

You’ve probably heard echoes of the controversy even if you aren’t involved in gaming, but in case you’re unfamiliar, here’s an overview. 

  • The studio broke multiple promises about the game’s content and capabilities. These included but weren’t limited to mini-games, advanced artificial intelligence, open-world events, player housing/vehicles, and a branching narrative structure. 
  • As reported by Screenrant, CDPR knowingly misrepresented Cyberpunk 2077’s performance issues on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game on these platforms was so unplayable that Sony reverted its digital refund policy for the first time in history, allowing players to return their digital copies of the game and de-listing it to prevent future purchases. 
  • CDPR’s marketing of the title was called out multiple times for transphobia and other problematic behavior, running directly counter to the brand’s established identity as a forward-thinking organization.
  • Per Forbes Magazine, the studio was openly mandating 6-day workweeks in the time leading up to launch, despite promising this would not happen. Studio Head Adam Bedowski’s response to reports on this crunch can be described as tone-deaf at best; condescending and openly hostile at worst. 
  • In addition to being riddled with bugs, Bleeping Computer reports that the game launched with a bug that allowed malicious mods to take over people’s PCs, and potentially even gave hackers internal access to CDPR’s systems and data.
  • Most recently, CDPR was hit by a massive cyberattack in which the hacker locked down the company’s entire internal network with ransomware and sold off the source code for its games.

To describe CDPR’s implosion as catastrophic would be putting it lightly. It is quite possibly one of the worst brand disasters of the decade, and it’s still going. The lesson here is simple — no brand, no matter how renowned or beloved, is above reproach. 

And marketing is nothing without solid products/services to back it up. 

Influencer Marketing Is Incredibly Powerful

Released in June 2018, Among Us enjoyed several years of modest success, with a small and dedicated following on PC and mobile. Then a few influencers began playing it on video streaming service Twitch. As reported by CNBC, the title’s growth was both explosive and immediate, and it was downloaded nearly 126 million times in the first half of September alone

Influencers have always had a special relationship with video games. The medium lends itself incredibly well to a unique breed of performance on platforms like Twitch and YouTube known as Let’s Plays. Some of the most successful content creators, such as Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, have adopted this format with great success. 

Even being featured on one of these channels can create an enormous surge in demand for a title. And although influencer marketing may not have quite the sway elsewhere as it does in gaming, it’s still an extremely valuable tool in your arsenal. You’d do well to leverage it. 

Game On

The games industry has come a long way from its humble roots. And as the pandemic wears on, there’s little doubt that it will continue to grow. You’d do well to pay attention to that growth — and not just because of the lessons it can teach you about marketing.