Digital marketing is increasingly sophisticated, targeted, and optimized – and yet, the Click-Through Rates (CTRs) that measure its success are abysmally low. One data set drawn from Google’s ad network shows that the average CTR of a display advertisement plummeted from 44% in 1994 to just 0.46% in 2018 – an almost 100-times reduction. Factor in the percentage of people who click through but abandon the item in their shopping cart, and the success rate is even lower.
For decades, the 30-second television commercial has set the standard for the ideal advert duration. But today, on average, users spend more than three hours a day on their smartphones, during which they tap, swipe, and click their screens more than 2,600 times. Since every touch changes the screen, each piece of content spends a mere 4.3 seconds in front of the user.
During that time, the brain goes through several microprocesses. First, it evaluates the image and decides whether to approach or avoid it. Next, it analyzes the image in light of past experiences to decide whether it likes the object, brand, or product shown. Then, suppose the brain associates the product with emotional rewards. In that case, it moves from “liking” to “wanting” it – and ultimately to clicking through. When we looked at how the brain processes visual content for routinely purchased grocery products, it was found that only 0.92 seconds are taken.
So, forget about the 30-second commercial – today, even two seconds is too long. Today, micro-commercials are needed to create that crucial impact in less than a second.
Next, we looked at what organizations can do to ensure their marketing – in this case, a product tile – stimulates those micro-processes.
We drew on research across different fields, from addiction to the animal kingdom. Among animals, for example, females selecting a mate tend to choose high-ranking males that can protect their offspring – for a brand, this translates to core category need. They also typically select a mate from outside the group to keep the genetic pool diverse – equivalent to the brand fitness indicator that gives a brand a distinct occupancy in the consumer’s mind. And females also favor male “friends” that have groomed them and been kind to their offspring – which translates to past experience with a brand or product and the emotional highs and rewards that trigger consumers to purchase it.
From this research, we identified three key elements to include in the product tile, which loosely correspond with the brain’s decision-making processes: