If we look at the evolution that has happened over the past decade (or two) on the Internet, it’s indisputable what people want — and what they don’t want.
People only care about 3 things on the Internet:
- Something that’s entertaining.
- Something that’s fascinating, interesting, or instructional.
- A blend of both.
In fact, by understanding how marketers and advertisers ruin things, we can better understand how things become popular in the first place.
Let’s take a parenting blog, for example.
One day, a stay-at-home mom finds herself unsure of the best summer camps to sign her 6 year old daughter up for. She goes online and doesn’t find any helpful resources. So she sends out an email to her neighborhood “mom-friends” and instantly gets handfuls of helpful suggestions.
“Hmmm,” she says to herself. “Wouldn’t other moms really benefit from a website that helps them find the best summer camps for their kids?”
A few weeks later, she has a site up and running. She invites her “mom friends” to contribute, each of them responsible for writing a post a month about a different summer camp they had sent one of their kids to.
The site instantly becomes popular within the “mom” community.
Because it answers a very specific question everyday moms are struggling with, and provides significant value to a reader with that question in mind.
A few months later, the mom entrepreneur behind this whole idea gets an email.
“Hi! I’m the VP of IntrusiveAdvertising, a cutting-edge advertising firm that specializes in branded content syndicated through a variety of B2C platforms leveraging analytics to better enhance the readership experience for everyday users. Would you be interested in us sponsoring a few posts on your site?”
Mom-Entrepreneur here doesn’t know what half those words mean, but she’s intrigued by being able to make money off this side hustle she’s got going.
“Sure,” she said, and IntrusiveAdvertising starts sending her posts.
There’s just one problem.
The posts don’t read anything like the other posts on the site, and are essentially long-form advertisements talking about how great a specific summer camp is.
Over the course of a year, Mom-Entrepreneur becomes very aware that these sponsored posts don’t perform very well. Sure, she’s able to make a few thousand dollars on the side letting them live on her site, but some months she’s actually certain these sponsored posts are the reason for lower traffic numbers.
A year later, IntrusiveAdvertising offers to buy her site outright.
Mom-Entrepreneur says Yes and gets out of the game.
And overnight, this once helpful and educational site becomes littered with ads. You can barely navigate the site without your screen spazzing from all the different branded banners.
This same story plays itself out CONSTANTLY, all over the Internet.
- Person comes up with a helpful or entertaining idea.
- Person launches idea and sees success from it (because this is what people want).
- Person allows IntrusiveAdvertising into their ecosystem.
- IntrusiveAdvertising ruins the product experience.
- IntrusiveAdvertising either kills the product, or decides to buy it outright.
- A new person enters the space, sees this littered site (that’s supposedly “owning” the space) and thinks to themselves, “Hey, I can make something way better for that sort of consumer.”
The people who try to market, and who think about marketing as marketing, are the ones who end up failing.
But it’s the people who focus on delivering real value (either by being entertaining or offering something insightful) that end up with the massive audiences.
And as the Internet continues to mature, this trend is only going to continue.
If you want to be a better marketer, stop marketing.