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The truth of online marketing

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Vladimir Milanovic
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Recently I saw an advertisement in a form of a YouTube video, stating that people don’t trust advertising anymore. What a magnificent piece of advertising!

It was one of those low quality online videos that uses animated numbers and statistics as scientific argumentation to convey its message and build credibility. The advert displayed many bold statements to warm you up for the conclusion – “you need content marketing and you need us to help you”. Congrats to the advertiser, very original!

This is the sentence that caught my attention: “72% of companies who blog weekly have acquired customers through their blog”. The advertiser was kind enough to disclose its sources of information, which I went on to further investigate, as I was intrigued by the numbers and wondered where they came from. The sources range from Nielsen to Huffington Post, but this particular stat came from HubSpot’s 2011 State of Inbound Marketing report. I’ve read the report a long time ago, but this time around I had more fun.

Misleading research?

Hubspot’s research investigates the correlation between the frequency of blog posting and obtaining new customers through the blog. The study was conducted in late 2009, 2010 and 2011. It surveyed 644 professionals, 76% of which are in B2B sector, with 39% of the companies that have 1-5 permanent employees.

The report further states that “57% of those (companies) using company blogs have acquired a customer from a blog-generated lead”. By breaking down the blogging frequency, they further state that 72% of companies which are posting on their blogs once a week have acquired a customer through that channel, but oddly there are only 78% of those who blog every day that have achieved the same outcome. This massive increase in blogging efforts (weekly vs. daily) leads only to minor increase in success – 72%, compared to 78%. The analysis fails to investigate this trend further.

Ignoring key variables

More importantly, the information that is withheld from this analysis is actually the key to understanding the value of blogging. How many customers have actually been acquired through this channel? Isn’t this what we all want to know? Is it one customer, maybe ten, or a hundred customers? Over what period of time?

Also there are the companies that never experienced positive results. What does that mean? If you fall in those 28%, you produce blog posts weekly and have acquired zero customers through blogging efforts. This led you to think that you need to increase the frequency of posting, which is why you started blogging every day and now you’re a part of the unlucky 22% minority. All in all, I would rather read about what actual percentage of customers were acquired through content marketing, instead of debating is it a viable method of customer acquisition at all.

I’m not spitting fire on blogging and content marketing, far from that. It is highly likely that things have changed since 2011 but deceptive methods of marketers and advertisers, however, have not. Another company will pick up this flawed research and use it as the proof of concept that more efforts in content marketing ultimately lead to increase in sales. False data will then start circulating and all of a sudden, you’ll hear or read that Social media is not a fad anymore, but it’s a fact! “There’s a proof, a study has been conducted” – this is dangerous, folks. This hurts the profession.

People don’t trust advertising anymore?

Let’s go back to the opening statement of the video I began discussing in this article – people don’t trust advertising anymore. This statement is derived from Edelman’s Trust Barometer and in the original form it says “83% of people report that they no longer trust corporate or product advertising”. But I couldn’t get this confirmed as the webpage has been removed from Edelman’s website.

The video I was watching goes on saying that 70% do trust recommendations from users online. This is actually taken from Nielsen‘s survey from 2009, the largest of its kind, covering 25,000 Internet users from 50 countries.

Nielsen does outline in the headline that “Personal recommendations and consumer opinions posted online are the most trusted forms of advertising globally”.

An interesting observation is the very next sentence, which says ” However, brand websites score as highly as online consumer opinions”. Wow! I haven’t seen that in the ad! Don’t worry, it gets even better. Nielsen then summarises “However, we see that all forms of advertiser-led advertising, except ads in newspapers, have also experienced increases in levels of trust…” I didn’t see this coming, did you?

Jonathan Carson, President of Online International, for the Nielsen Company adds “However, in this new age of consumer control, advertisers will be encouraged by the fact that brand websites – the most trusted form of advertiser-led advertising – are trusted by as many people (70 percent) as consumer opinions posted online”.

Once again this is the data from 2009, and things have probably changed since then. I’m sure that TV, billboards and brand sponsorships are the thing of the past…well a recent past. Is it really true that traditional marketing is dead? Or have I read it so many times and started believing in it?

Online content: genuine information or disinformation?

Everything you read online has a spin to it. Every article, white paper, blog post and other type of content are all written with an agenda. They are typically biased too.

Sometimes the content strives to be honest and objective but in most cases the information coming from a reputable source gets sliced, dissected, distorted or presented in proximity with other information, so it creates a different angle in order to prove the point, often to mislead the viewer and serve its agenda. If the predictions of global data growth are true, we’ll soon have zillions of terabytes storing disinformation. I wonder when will this online disinformation take over the information? Since the Internet has became new Mecca for advertisers, I believe we have reached that point already. What do you think?

If you have any questions about online marketing or you would like to read more posts like this, sooner rather than later, please do let me know.

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About Vladimir Milanovic

Vladimir Milanovic
Vladimir has been working with GCOMM since 2010 on the design and implementation of the recent branding and marketing strategies. He was also responsible for the rebranding of LiveBackup in 2012. Between 2006 and 2010 he was involved in the creation and launch of Imperial Tobacco’s European BTL platform for its Davidoff brand as well as for the rebranding of French icon, Gitanes. Vladimir graduated from the Belgrade University of Arts in 2005.
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