Why Consumers React Better To Content Marketing Over Traditional Ads

I vaguely remember hearing that Google was removing ads from the right side of its search results page. I just checked – they’re gone. I use Google several times a day but I never noticed the change.

In 2007, Nielsen Norman Groups conducted an eye-tracking study that supports Google’s decision. The results showed an unconscious blindness to advertisements:

Nielson Webpage Eye Tracking Study Heatmap Results 2007
Red indicates the areas where users looked the most; fewer views showed in yellow then blue respectively. Gray areas have no views. Green boxes highlight the ads.

Several studies show that it takes around 21 days to break or form a habit. How many times did you click on an ad, only to realize it wasn’t the useful content you expected to consume?

Over time people learned to ignore the parts of a webpage that were likely to contain ads. We stopped seeing click-bait ads because they reached us at the wrong point in the buyer’s journey, and in our mind’s eye they were spam.

Those who did not ignore the ads employed ad blockers to remove the ads altogether – something that is still happening today. Facebook and Adblock Plus are embroiled in a PR war over blocker-proofing ads.

Between unconscious ad blindness and ad blocking software how can marketers reach consumers today?

How Content Marketing Is Better Than Traditional Ads

Content marketing is not a new strategy, but it’s one that has seen a resurgence amongst digital marketers. People consume content at all stages of the buyer’s journey. In most cases we need to opt-in to see the content: subscribing to newsletters, following social media pages, or browsing our favorite websites.

Content is King cloud

The allure of content marketing for both consumers and marketers is its honesty. Devious tactics are often employed to have people click on ads, which left its victims feeling cheated, and wronged by the brand.

No wonder then, that trust between marketers and consumers has plummeted: (“54% of people don’t trust brands” – Bopdesign)

Content marketing is repairing the relationship brands have with consumers. Influencer marketing, the child of content and social media marketing, allows trustworthy people with an audience to bridge the gap.

Content by influencers is genuine content, written by real people, often brand advocates, who are not trying to trick their audience. Thanks to the new FTC guidelines, influencers must disclose when their content is sponsored by a brand, leaving no reader in doubt of its status.

Why Do Consumers Accept Sponsored Content?

Being in the influencer marketing business we are acutely familiar with how people respond to sponsored content from our influencers.

People accept sponsored content because there is a level of trust between the influencer and the consumer. Unlike ads, which are paid for by big (and often impersonal) companies, sponsored influencer content is published by someone who is relatable – a real person.

An influencer grows an audience because they’ve given something valuable back to the people viewing their content. Whether it be inspiration for their own lives, a recipe, or mere entertainment, the audience is getting something each time they interact with an influencer.

It’s true that sometimes people feel betrayed by the influencer when they publish sponsored content. This can happens when an influencer stops generating original content; Consumers feel as if the influencer “sold out” on their audience.

That’s why brands should work with an influencer who values their audience above sponsored campaigns.

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