Today all buyers of anything, regardless of the market they are in, are constantly besieged by a never ending stream of information. They are connected as never before, seconds away from an internet search. Smart phones buzz away demanding instant attention; computers chime in to herald either the arrival of a new set of information or yet another demand for action or response. High powered, digital wireless technology provides a never ending stream of information. We are now floating in a sea of information, so ubiquitous and so diverse that it creates a huge challenge to the human brain to navigate the waters and reach a useful destination. This cognitive overload is a huge challenge for marketers of all stripes.
As if this challenge is not enough, connectivity technology has evolved to the point that we are never or seldom without interruption. As I write this article twenty emails have arrived, texts have buzzed in on my smart phone, the message light on my desk set blinks away. If I cross the street to the local Starbucks, I stand in a line of information receptors, checking their emails, texting out, speaking earnestly into their phones. No one is focusing on their main task, ordering a coffee; no one is in deep contemplation working through solutions for the day; everyone is frantically receiving or sending.
Those who proudly call them themselves multitaskers have forgotten that the term was first used to describe what computers should and could do. To understand how well the human brain handles multi tasking we have to go no further than the current evidence on the effects on drivers as they navigate their vehicles through the streets while using smart phones or any phone for that matter. It has been shown that drivers who are talking on cell phones are four times more likely to be in an accident than those who are not. Research shows that the human brain employs selective attention, missing other things as it chooses to attend one thing or another.The challenge to marketing communications in this environment is to get your target audience to focus on your message and cut through cognitive overload. Research shows that the human brain is primarily wired as a survival tool. In fact it doesn’t care a lot about what the conscious mind wants it to learn. John Lorinc in a Walrus Magazine article in 2007 put it this way.
"It (the brain) is geared to respond to novel, surprising, or terrifying emotional and sensory stimuli.""
This where the “Big Idea” comes in. More importantly than ever, if your target audience is to focus on your message it must be wrapped in an unusual, different idea. Once that audience focuses then cognitive overload must be overcome by making sure that the information provided must be clear and succinct. This latter point is made for two reasons. Get your point across before attention shifts and avoid cognitive overload by making the copy memorable and short.
It doesn’t matter how great your ad looks, how present you are on social media, what media you have chosen to use, how impressive your trade show booth is, how big or small your spend might be, if your campaign is based on a weak idea. Every great campaign begins with a carefully thought out, tested and proven, single idea. Without that, all the creativity in the world cannot generate the sales leap forward that you need to justify your budget spend.
Business-to-business and healthcare marketing is complicated. It is not good enough to target a single purchaser (that’s why consumer marketing is easier). Marketers in these disciplines often need to reach the C-level suite, while also attracting the attention of procurement, middle managers, docs and end users; all that within limited budgets and with a need for immediate results. The right Big Idea gets all that done and requires a smaller media spend than its weaker brothers and sisters.
Yes, you have to know the general needs and wants of your target audience. If you can separate out the decision makers, product champions, and the decision influencers that is all to the good. Most often though, budget dictates that you can only proceed with one message, a message that must grab everyone's attention. That's another argument for the power of the Big Idea.
A great idea grabs attention by appealing to logic and emotion. It makes you interesting and desirable; it reflects the personality of your brand and product while demonstrating that it meets the need better than anyone else. The medium is not the message in B2B or healthcare marketing; in both the message is the message.
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