Ads are forcefully injected into our daily lives, without permission or explicit consent. We didn’t explicitly sign up for them and never agreed to the terms. And yet, we live alongside these glossy pages, commercials, and billboards every day.
They are ubiquitous. Ads are everywhere from our public schools to smartphones. Frankly, it’s easy to get fed up with the onslaught. To crave peace, tranquility, and minimalism is only natural. People are forcibly removing ads from view and saying “enough is enough.”
Marketers have noticed the resistance among consumers. Their old methods don’t seem to work. Print is dying, television is increasingly losing out to on-demand, and people are using ad blockers for the Internet. In response, they’re changing their methods, mediums, and messages. They’ve cleared the drawing board and developed new ways to attract us.
For marketers, the times are a changing. Consumers are living in this strange epoch of technology, social networking, and the “sharing economy.” Growing numbers of people are eschewing ownership, as technology has minimized our book cases and empowered us to pool resources. Selling us products has become a difficult proposition: what will we buy?
Amidst changing demographics, economic interests, and consumer preferences, growing numbers of companies are creating inspirational, aspirational, and ethically driven advertising. They know that if they inspire, touch, and/or move us we’ll share, tweet, fave, and like. The strategy is complex, but if advertisers can appeal to causes you believe in, you’ll be more likely to spread the word. As a bonus, articles and ads that are shared by consumers aren’t tagged with “advertisement” or “sponsored;” instead, they sneak behind the consumer wall and get peers to market to each other.
Even people who believe in anti-consumption, frugality, and simple living are being psychologically duped into sharing advertisements. And we seem to be accepting that our friends’ updates and tweets now include these reminders to buy, buy, buy. We are volitionally advertising to those we love most.
By now you might be looking for some examples. Most recently, REI created a massive social networking ad campaign centered on boycotting Black Friday. USAToday’s Hadley Malcolm wrote, “In an unprecedented move for the modern-day holiday shopping season, REI’s 143 stores will be closed the day after Thanksgiving.” REI even inspired a creative hashtag: #OptOutside. How fun! This outdoor and recreational company’s value driven campaign appeals directly to those who hate the co-opting and consumerism of that day.
Malcolm’s article has been shared over 200,000 on Facebook alone. That’s one article for the company’s decision. Many in the simple living community have written about the decision – highlighting how it meets their values. It’s been shared all over Twitter.
REI is bucking a trend, but it’s not the first company to say they’re not supportive of post-Thanksgiving mass shopping. Last year, Patagonia published ads that said, “Don’t buy this jacket” in regards to Cyber Monday (the week after Thanksgiving). Again, the anti-consumptive ads were shared massively. It was a viral success — just like this year’s ads.
After Patagonia’s advertising campaign, they received huge press attention and their sales skyrocketed. It worked. REI’s advertisements have already worked, too.
They’ll reduce sales for one day: Black Friday. And then, the sales will greatly increase as those remember REI meets their values. To the company, money is money – doesn’t matter if it comes on Friday or next week.
Ultimately, it’s our power not to share. Companies know how to captivate us with their messages – even if they say “Don’t buy me.” We can’t help but respect these values and click tweet. In this economy, we choose what brands, products, and companies win. The responsibility is ours, but we needn’t do the work for them.