You can’t catch fish unless you put your line in the water. In the case of fly fishing, you can throw your line in the water but if the fish aren’t interested your fly will float on by. The fish don’t care if it’s a really expensive fly, really cheap fly, if your a pro fly fisherman or if this is the first time you’ve ever fished. If they’re not interested, they’re not interested and you can never predict 100% what the fish will bite.
Online marketing is very similar. Trying to guess what piece of content or marketing message customers will bite on is unpredictable (just look at how random the most watched videos on YouTube are). The stream of content the fish are swimming in is getting wider and faster everyday. And the context of your marketing message will unavoidably be among very armature, poor quality and/or irrelevant messages (lots of flies out there for fish to bite on). Most of the pieces of content brands put on YouTube cost 100 times that of the video next to it and chances are, half the time the viewer doesn’t even notice and chooses the home made and poor quality option instead. The carefully crafted Facebook marketing page and status updates the advertising agency has meticulously built over a two month period will appear in the customers news feed right next to their friend’s post of a shaky video with terrible audio, and yet, that video is what will be viewed and shared instead.
So why do brands spend so much money on advertising agencies to create very expensive flies, to be cast in front of very unpredictable fish, in a stream that is covered with millions of other inexpensive, armature and home made flies for the fish to bite on?
The traditional model of advertising where months of time and effort and put into “the big idea” for the brand to sell one consistent branding message costs too much and doesn’t scale online. In the past it made sense because every time you would cast your fly it cost a lot of money but there weren’t very many fisherman because of the high cost and the stream was smaller and slower moving.
I think the future of online marketing is about having as many lines in the water as possible. The goal should not be to have the most expensive, finely-tuned, most researched or highest quality single idea. Every post, tweet, update and video is another line in the water that gives you one more chance to get a bite. The amount of effort and cost that is traditionally spent on the big expensive ideas that ad agencies sell to brands are not worth it. The customers don’t care, they’ll let that beloved idea float on by.
The lower the cost of distribution, the more content will exist and the lower the attention level of the customer will be. The lower the attention level, the lower the cost of production should be to accommodate more frequent and diverse ideas.