5 Habits Marketers Should Drop in 2018

And how they can think more like their audience instead

It’s an interesting time to be a marketer. We’re scientists, artists, writers, and technologists. That’s a lot to handle, and we’re actually pretty decent at it all. We’re constantly working on finding the right buttons to push, words to write, and ways to measure, but have we stopped thinking about the most important variable? Have marketers stopped thinking about the consumers on the other end of the device?

In today's media landscape, any person with $10 and a Facebook account can publish an ad from their couch. Placing ads in front of eyeballs has never been easier, which has led us to stop spending as much time considering the consumer experience. To our credit, marketers have taken advantage of this ease of publishing, but the temptation to distribute more content has made it harder than ever to step back and focus on what the consumer would want.

We’ve stopped thinking like consumers because we have so much to think about as marketers. The most important thing to keep in mind is this: Even we don’t like seeing ads. Marketers on my team regularly block social video ads, skip pre-roll ads, and purchase premium subscriptions for an ad-free experience. If we don’t want to mess with ads, we surely can’t expect our consumers to be shaking in their respective boots waiting for our next Facebook video to be published. This generation of marketers has to own the great responsibility of utilizing modern marketing strategies while standing on the front line willing to fight for the consumer. Marketing depends on it. Let’s start small. Don’t change what you’re doing (yet). Instead, change what you’re thinking. A group of skilled marketers holistically thinking like consumers is the best chance we have at delivering messages that aren’t ignored, forgotten, or downright despised.

1. Stop thinking massive groups of consumers are benefitting from your advertising.

I love Warby Parker. I love them in a way that annoys people. I have four pairs of frames even though I wear glasses maybe once a month. My advice for friends shopping for glasses is basically an in-person reenactment of every Warby Parker advertisement. I love Warby Parker, and it’s because my first experience with them was social advertising targeted to me while I was shopping for new frames. They presented their solution to a problem I was experiencing as I was experiencing it. This point is a testament to the power of relevant targeting.

It’s easy for marketers to aim for scale. You’ll never hear a marketer say, “This is a great video, but I think it could stand to be seen by fewer people.” Serving messaging to larger groups at one time makes for more efficient campaign building and reporting. But only very small percentages of the world are interested enough in our brands and products to be okay with having their day interrupted by us. If consumers were in control of which ads they saw, they'd choose only the ones that personally impact them. That's how we should think about targeting. Would these consumers choose to see this themselves?

We can still achieve scale, but we need to work harder than ever to know every consumer segment that’s valuable to us, create content that’s hyper relevant to each group, and be confident serving that content only to them. Let’s continue reaching millions of people with our content, but what can we do to split those millions into cohort lists and deliver custom versions of content in a way that makes engagement rates rise?

We need to work harder than ever to know every consumer segment that’s valuable to us, create content that’s hyper relevant to each group, and be confident serving that content only to them.


Here at Spredfast, we regularly market to a very large database with the goal of reaching everyone we can with top-of-funnel messaging. One of our favorite tools to achieve scale with our database is email. In the past three months, we’ve seen jumps in audience email engagement because of a focus on sending more one-off messages to large lists outside of typical nurture programs. The easy thing to do would be to take that insight and focus our 2018 email programs on finding individual messages and sending them to our entire database at one time. But a huge focus for us next year is segmenting that list and sending relevant emails to each segment. Instead of sending one email to 150,000 consumers, we want to send 15,000 emails with 10 different content topics to 10 segments of consumers with similar interests. Is it more work? Absolutely. But fighting for the consumer experience should be this generation’s focus. We have to make strides to shift the perception of marketing from disruption to benefit, and delivering relevant content to relevant consumers is a start.

2. Stop thinking consumers compare your advertising directly to your competitor’s.

It’s common (and understandable) for marketers to have a sharp focus on their competitors. When a consumer is ready to make a purchase, we know those competitors have the best chance at stealing market share. But that doesn’t mean we can naïvely think that consumers have the same focus. In the Newsfeed world, regular people, will rarely see our message, scroll down, and see a competitor’s ad in the same fold. It’s even more naïve for marketers to think a consumer will see our message and remember it long enough to compare it to a competitor’s ad they see days, weeks, or months later.

When we’re researching and ideating for new marketing content that we know will be seen on a Newsfeed, let’s stop focusing as much on whether our video is better than a competitor’s and start diving deeply into what content consumers are watching and engaging with—regardless of industry, product, or location. To make a positive impact and not just provide an unwanted disruption, we have to start holding ourselves accountable to not just being better than three competitors, but to being better than anything else a consumer could come into contact with. We’re fighting for attention and recall with every message out there. We need to show up to the fight aware of what we’re up against.

3. Stop thinking social media campaign success equals a three-second video view.

That’s like congratulating yourself for successfully running a marathon after running your first mile. That’s just the start! A great video gets you to stop scrolling, but an impactful marketing strategy shouldn’t stop there. I’ve accidentally watched more videos for three seconds than I could ever hope to remember. If we’re thinking as actual human consumers, we know that a video view isn’t enough to make me a valuable member of your brand’s community. A consumer thinks a social campaign is great when they watch a video, follow your brand, visit your site, purchase your product, tell their friends, and remember you for months. We can’t measure success with an action a consumer can accidentally take. Let’s hold ourselves accountable to making people’s day better by measuring success with an action that’s representative of true consumer engagement.

We can’t measure success with an action a consumer can accidentally take.


That means we shouldn’t call our social video campaigns successful unless it leads to clicks where consumers spend more than 45 seconds on your website, visit more than one page in one session, or share your video with someone else. Marketing success happens when you’ve appealed to me in a way that makes me act beyond the scroll. Our KPIs should reflect that, and 3-second video views aren’t indicative of true engagement anymore. Your success metrics will vary depending on the purpose of the message, but we should challenge ourselves to honestly measure success based on actions that might lead to a consumer remembering the video they watched seven days later.

4. Stop thinking consumers don’t recognize native or influencer marketing for what it is.

With the growth of new marketing platforms, we know, better than any other generation of consumers, when we’re being advertised to. Viewers can spot a sitcom product placement from miles away. Readers know when an article about a software tool is a native ad. Followers know when their favorite Instagram personality is promoting tea. Let’s give them credit. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use those outlets, it just means we shouldn’t think we’re advertising in secret. In a society that’s clamoring for transparency, let’s acknowledge that we can’t trick consumers into thinking influencers are just really big fans of our product. If we do the research to work with native or influencer partners that reach the right consumers, they should benefit from hearing about our product, whether it’s organic or not. It should tell us a lot about the state of advertising when marketers try to hide marketing. Let’s use these channels to reach consumers that won’t mind if you market to them.

Let’s start giving our readers, followers, and viewers more credit.


5. Stop thinking we have to talk like marketers.

This is an actual quote from an automobile marketer talking about their product: “This is our most spacious, refined and capable (product) ever, combining modern luxury with advanced technology that elevates every passenger’s experience.” Who goes to a dealership asking for an elevated passenger experience? When we think like consumers from the start, we talk like them, too. If our goal is to influence action, that suggested action should make sense to who’s seeing or hearing it. “Click here to explore an elevated passenger experience” doesn’t speak to the reason anyone is shopping for cars. “Click here to learn about gas mileage” is something I understand immediately, and, hopefully, you were targeting me because of your knowledge of my interest in that specific feature. I’d click on that.

If we saw our marketing like consumers saw our marketing, would we do things differently? There are plenty of steps we can take to fight for more honest engagement between our audience and the messages we deliver to them, but it’s most important that we start by changing how we think. We are nothing without the people on the other side of the devices. Let’s fight for them.

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Matt McAllister is the Director of Revenue Marketing at Spredfast. A former ad agency cofounder, he’s a marketing lifer who’s transitioned from design and copywriting to digital and analytics.