Reflecting the Consumer in a Splintered Market

The final episode of “M*A*S*H,” an American medical drama about an Army surgical hospital based in South Korea during the Korean War, reigned as the most watched show in the history of television until it was dethroned by the Super Bowl in 2010. Try to imagine a program today that could capture 60 percent of households in one country. “M*A*S*H’s” record stood for over 25 years because in 1983 there were essentially three television networks in the United States. Today, a marketer can only dream of reaching such a massive and diverse audience with a single program. Choice has shattered these communal, shared television experiences and created a myriad of options for viewers.

The proliferation of media channels, the internet, user-generated content, and Netflix and Hulu provide point-of-need delivery of a range of entertainment options. The mass entertainment and media market has been continually segmented into more granular interest, demographic and lifestyle groups. New opportunities in target marketing simultaneously create novel challenges. By targeting products and marketing messaging to very refined segments, marketers can dramatically improve conversion rates and advertising effectiveness.

Custom content and experiences that appeal to unique tastes occur even within (or maybe especially within) households. On any given day, each family member can watch, listen and participate in their own videos, music and games on their device of choice. Smartphones, tablets, televisions and mp3 players create a splintered environment, so marketers cannot appeal to shared experiences and frames of reference understood by a mass audience.

Reflecting in a splintered mirror
A direct marketing approach to online advertising is replacing the more traditional branding and awareness approach. To improve performance, sophisticated marketers should use several different strategies to maintain advertising effectiveness and improve performance. For example, marketers can use social networks to broadcast or narrowcast their messaging in a manner nearly invisible to the consumer or receiver. The viral nature of social networks only enhances the message effectiveness through reposts, retweets and other linking techniques.

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