Customer Advertising Preferences For 2016

How Customers Feel About Your Advertising (Research)

advertising poster ca 1880As marketer you invest in advertising to achieve goals such as extending your brand, expanding your audience, and increasing leads.

Yet, do you know what your target audience’s advertising preferences are?

Even more important, do you know if your audiences wants to communicate with your business at all? And if so, where do they want to see your brand’s ads?

If you’re like most marketers, you only think about your prospect to get her to buy your product. Yet as David Ogilvy famously pointed out:

“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.”  Tweet This


If that’s the case, don’t you think it’s worth your time to understand how your prospect or customer wants to engage with your business?

Customer’s preferred communications channels

Customer’s preferred communications channels based on MarketingSherpa research (2015) rank as follows:

  • 72% of US adults prefer email.
  • 48% of US adults prefer postal mail.
  • 34% of US adults prefer television ads.
  • 31% of US adults prefer magazine and newspaper ads.
  • 11% of US adults prefer mobile apps.
  • 7% of US adults prefer online video ads.

To put this data in perspective consider what MadMan Fairfax Cone said about his profession:

“Advertising is what you do when you can’t talk to someone.”  Tweet This 

Customer Advertising Preferences - MarketingSherpa Research Chart

Customer Advertising Preferences – MarketingSherpa Research Chart

advertising poster ca 1880What’s the surprise when you look at customer’s preferred communications channels?

9 out of 10 consumers want advertising (specifically 92%). Hat tip to MadMen everywhere.

While consumers don’t agree on the best forms of advertising, most consumers are interested in advertising at some level. Less than 10% of respondents wanted NO advertising. I’m not surprised. I’ve had this discussion with many media clients, large and small. They believed ad-free versions of their content would generate revenues.

Marketers miss the point:

  • Consumers find some types of advertising valuable. That said, they don’t like to be interrupted with irrelevant ads.

Customers prefer to consume advertising on their time table, not yours

7 out 10 consumers like email. Email is the hands down winner.

Email makes sense. Email is how we stay connected with businesses on our terms. This includes communications, promotions and commerce.

Customers know how to handle email from companies they do business with. They can read it, file it away for later reading, or delete it. My marketing students were surprised to see that their classmates also had special email addresses for retailers they liked but didn’t want cluttering their inbox.

1 in 2 US adults likes postal direct mail. Many marketers were surprised direct mail outranked all other advertising except email.

Postal direct mail is a lot like email. Your audience can view it on their terms. If it’s irrelevant, they throw it out.

With the decline in postal mail, people are more accepting of the advertising in their mailbox. For example, my mother spends as much time looking at her favorite Nieman Marcus catalog to see the styles as she does the New Yorker.

1 in 3 US adults like print. Despite print’s decline, magazines and newspapers fill a special content need. Content Marketing Institute started a print magazine, Chief Content Officer, to fill this need for its targeted audience.

While consumers, especially millennials, may not read print magazines on a regular basis, special edition magazines are big hits.

  • Sports Illustrated Bathing Suit Issue. It’s the closest G-rated content gets to Playboy.
  • Vogue’s August Fall Fashion issues. These 1+ inch thick magazines are the fashion bible and get read cover to cover especially Vogue.

Even Frank Sinatra is still a cover boy on Vanity Fair and Life magazines. (And he’s dead!!!) 

Frank Sinatra Still Sells Magazines! via @HeidiCohen

Magazines and other print media provide a targeted content experience where readers actively consume advertising. Often, they’re seeking related product.

Don’t interrupt your customers with advertising

Want to piss your prospects and customers off?
5 in 6 adults don’t like advertising formats that interrupt what they’re doing, regardless of device. This includes texts, phone calls and in-person interactions that you initiate, not the customer.

Customer’s preferred advertising formats broken out by age

Examining advertising preferences by age breakout, you won’t be surprised. Older customer groups prefer email and traditional media while younger age groups like mobile and social media. Interestingly, 35-44 year olds dislike advertising the most!

Customer Advertising Preferences By Age Group - MarketingSperpa Research Chart

Customer Advertising Preferences By Age Group – MarketingSperpa Research Chart

What customer advertising preferences mean for your 2016 marketing?

Email remains king!

Email enables you to build a business asset, namely your customer list. Email allows you to communicate directly with your target audience. This content works best when it’s useful or entertaining to your audience. (Check Joe Pulizzi’s Content Inc.)

Entrepreneurs, like Copyblogger’s Brian Clark, think in terms of building a minimal viable audience (MVA) before they start selling to their audience. LINK.

3 Tips to maximize your email marketing results

1. Provide your readers with value on their schedule.

Other MarketingSherpa research found email audiences preferred to choose their communication frequency. Over mailing your list may result in unsubscribes and complaints that can hurt your email reputation.

90+% of those surveyed wanted to receive email from businesses. Most wanted to receive it at least once per month or once per week. To succeed give your readers options.EMAIL Frequency-2015 Chart- MarketingSherpa

AppSumo’s Noah Kagan recommends remailing people who don’t open your initial email a week later with a different subject.

Remail emailing increases open rate-Noah Kagan Chart

2. Keep your email list healthy.

Keeping email addresses that aren’t active on your list boosts your list numbers but doesn’t help your engagement rates.

Here are the problems:

  • People sign up for email when they find a new blog or get a great offer to buy a gift. But we never seem to find the time to read the blog or the gift was for our uncle Herbie and we don’t care about the retailer offers, but we don’t unsubscribe.
  • Marketers like to have big subscription numbers. They make us look good.

Hubspot pruned 250,000 email addresses from their list. (Stay calm—I know that despite your loving care your list is much, much smaller but stick with me.)

Hubspot set up an automated process that enabled them to unsubscribe anyone who had NOT clicked on an email in 6+ months.

They also reduced their blog post notices to once a day, assuming that readers wouldn’t read more than one email per day.

While their email list dropped by about 60%, the names they lost were inactive. Their engagement metrics improved significantly.

Even if you use your email list to sell, pruning inactive addresses doesn’t hurt your sales since these people didn’t engage with your content.

3. Get into your readers’ email inner circle

In 2003, Quiris, an email supplier, found that consumers maintained an “inner circle of email relationships” regardless of the source. The email inner circle was 16.

When a new emailing entered the circle, another emailing was dropped. It didn’t matter who the emailer was.

While I haven’t seen this research repeated (I had to use the Way Back Machine to get the link.), the email inner circle is similar to television viewing habits where viewers tend to watch of a set number of channels regardless of the number available.

As a marketer, you want your email subscribers to open and read your emailings. Without doing this, you’re not building your relationship with the prospect.

Therefore you should do everything you can to ensure that your content gets read.

The bottom line: For the most part, your target audience likes advertising; they just like it on their terms and without being interrupted.

Therefore it’s okay to use advertising but you have to be smart about it. You need to know your audience and what grabs their attention. Where possible, target your message, especially on social media advertising.

What’s your opinion about customer advertising and how do you use it?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

Photo Credit:

Tags , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Customer Advertising Preferences For 2016