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The Era of the Distracted Consumer



I am not your target audience.


It’s true. I am the target audience of very few things.

Unless you’re dresses or maybe home decor, in which case I am 100% your target audience.


I’d rather seek things out that I like rather than go with something I only half-like or have little interest in just because they are readily available. That applies to everything from art, books, films, music, and television shows to consumer goods and even experiences. I'm not drawn in by the luxury brands or big names or mass fast-fashion exclusively, I tend to shop from all levels seeking out what I find interesting, aesthetically pleasing, and of quality/well-made.


I respect everyone’s choices and as a marketer I create those moments and crazes for audiences to flock to, yet for someone who has in the past often been referred to as a trendsetter I follow very few if any trends.


I can’t recall the last blockbuster that I went to see on opening weekend and you’d be surprised at the number of big franchise films/series that I have never seen. I have nothing against those and eventually I do end up watching some, but there was a good 60+ years worth of cinema that was made before I was born that I usually tend to be more curious about. Going through collections or archives in order to find something that I find interesting. All for my own entertainment, not for the sake of broadcasting my review to everyone else. Although, if I enjoy it I will gladly share it with others.


Which makes the fact that I’d choose to be a marketer, somewhat ironic. However, not necessarily as the fact that I’m more discerning likely contributes to my success at it. Although ultimately it’s my ability to read audiences and quickly get a sense of what they’ll respond to that makes things more effective and then of course there is data. While it is my creativity that takes center stage, I am also analytical and therefore data is something that I embrace.

Earlier in the week I was speaking with a colleague on a call and we got to the subject of marketing campaigns after I jokingly wondered out loud when all of the products at stores labeled “As Seen on TV” would start to be labeled as “As Seen on IG” or “As Seen on YouTube.” Because honestly, when was the last time you really watched any commercials on television, or perhaps even watched television? I remember when I was a little kid products had jingles-- “You’re not fully clean unless you’re Zestfully clean!” or “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline.” It was a whole industry and style of marketing.


Who knew that I’d be that generation and wave of marketers that would kill that style of marketing. It was efficient and memorable, but like many things couldn’t make the cut into a future where skipping commercials became the norm.


Fast-forward to the present day where now everything is on demand and you can google anything that pops into your head in mere seconds. Not only can you find something that fits your exact taste but also your budget and best way to obtain it--shop for it in store, order it online and pick it up, or have it delivered to you if you’re willing to wait.


So back to the conversation with my friend/colleague, I was stating that there really hadn’t been a great campaign that I could think of that grabbed my attention and made me want to consume the product. Of course there are some that are unexpected campaigns that sometimes make me stop and take a look or these days post-pandemic there are even more celebrities appearing in promos for products and other things that aren’t always a fit. I get it though, the entertainment industry hit a slow-down and everyone still had bills to pay. Yet, because I have hired well-known names for campaigns every now and then I know the lack of authenticity in those campaigns at times. It does often come down to an additional paycheck. Similar to athletes and endorsements.


When she asked me the question of what was the last campaign that really made you stop and take a look, I laughed and responded “You realize that I’m the worst person to ask that of right?” She also laughed and said, "No, I know you and that's why you're the best person to ask that of!" Point made.


I'll liken my noticing of any ad campaign to the same way I walk right past people I know all of the time. If you want me to notice you or need to grab my attention you pretty much have to trip me (please don’t trip me), bump into me, or practically shout my name--otherwise I am usually always in my head working or thinking about the next ten things I have to get done and likely won’t really notice you. Years ago, I used to constantly walk past friends in a band all of the time on my way into our studio without even noticing them (in my defense there were always a lot of band people in that parking lot) and later if they’d ever call me out on it I was constantly apologizing saying sorry, that I was in my head. They ended up immortalizing that into a song via one of the lyrics, “I always say I’m in my head...too much.” I think the song is called “Body Monsters,” but haven’t heard it in a few years so I may be wrong.


So if living, breathing people can’t get my attention half of the time, how will a passive, in the background marketing/ad campaign do it?


Yet, I think that’s where we’re at. I feel like the rest of the world/audiences have now caught up to the Siria level of distracted discernment. Thanks to that device that we’re all glued to 24-7 we’ve all somewhat honed in on what we do like or at least the general ballpark and gotten better at ignoring everything else. We no longer necessarily need so much a marketing campaign to get us to consume something as much as we need a reminder that it exists.


It’s an interesting time where we all crave authenticity, but also convenience and quick-fixes which are not always synonymous with quality or uniqueness. However, there is something out there for everyone--varying quality, varying price points, varying colors, shapes, and sizes.


Yet the responsibility lies on the consumer. Before you can get what you want, you actually need to know what you want. Why keep consuming what you don't like just because it's free or on sale? Once you decide exactly what's right for you and what you like, go get it. The world is your oyster.


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