Information overload, great escape and consumer perception

Like chaos and confusion on city streets and society in general, the information environment bears an almost similar reality. There is too much to accommodate and too conflicting to reconcile. Consider the following:

An customer on an average is bombarded with over 2000 messages every day; all our senses are perpetually intruded upon by marketing messages-it is virtually impossible to open eyes or ears to brand free environment; even friends carry endorsements on their bodies- they have become mobile ads; you touch a thing and a brand screams; the news papers have become bulkier over the time and it is difficult to isolate the news from the sponsored messages; and on television it is unending barrage of advertising which is interspersed with programs.  In such a situation how do people cope?

When the information exceeds the limit we can cope with, our perceptual system is automatically pressed into action. So before we get paralyzed by information overload and collapse, the mind gets into filtration mode.  The information a limited portion of the total is allowed to in the mind. Consider some facts: over 200 million Americans have joined ‘don’t call list’, 86% skip ads on television and 44% direct mailers are never opened. Getting customer’s attention is tough especially when the perceptual sensors are raised to escape from the information assault. Most of marketing communication is ‘filtered and thrown away’ by prospects.

When prospects do not give attention easily, the marketer’s job is to devise strategies to capture it. Consider the following:

  • When Onida brand was launched in India, the television market was already crowded with over 20 brands. The obvious challenge for the company was how to get the customers to pay attention to another brand of television.
  • When Maggi brand forayed into tomato ketchup market, the dominant brand was Kissan. In people perception nothing a sauce is a sauce. Therefore it is futile to pay attention to ketchup advertising.

Two newspapers ads caught my attention on Aug 12. Consider their headlines:

The first posed a question: ‘What’s your size?’ and second asserted ‘Best accessorized by a bowler hat, with a gentleman underneath’.

Now make a guess what products are these ads trying to promote?

  • The first one is of ‘Euro’ inners. The ad displayed a masculine eight pack, young man standing against the background which shows the brand name in capital letters. His right arm is inside the letter ‘U’ linking the man and the brand. The model looks straight into the eyes of the reader and draws attention in its entirety to his brief. His questioning expression is bold, challenging and direct.
  • The second ad is of ‘Woods’ which displays a stylish pair of ladies sandals, a pocket watch and a picture of two English gentlemen. The headline goes ‘Best accessorized by a bowler had, with a gentleman underneath’.  One wonders what gentle men have to do with sandals.

There are broadly three ways to capture attention: ambiguity (when communication does not make sense and challenges us into sense making), interest (things we like and prefer e.g. humor, music, sports) and relevance (things which are pertinent to us in a given situation).  Now consider the strategies used by the above brands:

Onida’s ‘Neighbor’s envy owner’s pride’ campaign with devil did not make sense and hence challenged people into resolving the apparent question ‘what the hell this devil is doing in this ad?’

Maggi’s campaign used Pankaj Kapoor and Javed Jaffery duo in comic situations and caught attention by ‘it’s different’ message. The ads used two actors arguing with each other in very comic situations.

The Euro and Woods ads also employ ambiguity and headline leaves it on the reader to ‘elaborate’ them in their own way and construct meaning: ‘What’s your size?’ and ‘Best accessorized by a bowler hat, with a gentleman underneath’.


2 thoughts on “Information overload, great escape and consumer perception

  1. Hello Sir,
    This is truly an insightful post! I would like to add another point on the ways to capture attention: Shock. Take for example, these 4 CEAT Tyres Ad (The tyres market is also saturated with multiple players):

    If you notice, all these 4 ads have one thing in common: The prospect of some CHILD getting harmed. Since, the guy uses CEAT Tyres, hence he is able to avert the disaster. Showing an average adult suffering an accident would not have the same impact as a child suffering the same consequences, thereby relatively making CEAT Tyres “safer” in the perception of the consumer.


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