Tell me what you want, what you really, really want

This blog is part of the ongoing series Acoustic: 2020 Marketing Unplugged.

Social media can be a fickle thing. Marketers invest a lot of time, effort, and dollars into getting a platform to work well for them. Sometimes, overnight, the option to advertise on a platform vanishes.

The vanishing platform is not new to marketers. We watched for years while MySpace slowly declined as Facebook rose in popularity. Some of us are still smarting from the December 2016 announcement that the Vine platform would be no more.

And yet, even though we know that platforms can be fickle, we’re still pressed to determine what consumers are really looking for. According to eMarketer, U.S. adult social network users will spend 7 more minutes per day on social networks this year than in 2019. This is primarily because of the pandemic and our indoor vigilance – but this is also part of the problem.

Can’t You See Me?

In 2019, a Nielsen study revealed that frequent flyers were responsive to airport advertising, with 80% noticing the advertising and 42% taking action. As a marketer, this data sounds pretty good and might even encourage you to pitch airport advertising to your CMO.

However, as we know, airport travel took a serious hit in 2020 and those ads often went unseen. In a similar boat are advertisements in inflight magazines, train stations, billboards, and even within hotel lobbies.

Amtrak announced that beginning October 1, it will cut hundreds of daily train routes down to three times weekly. Ridership for the service declined by 95% during the pandemic. Hotels report that 80% of their rooms are empty and that the impact to the travel industry is 9x more severe than in the aftermath of 9/11.  

While physical advertisements remain in place, viewership numbers remain dismally low.

Hack Attacks

Consumers’ safety on many social media platforms frequently comes into question. Between inability to control misinformation and hacks that put consumers financial information at risk, both TikTok and Twitter face scrutiny.

Concerns abound regarding privacy and data safety on TikTok, due to the app’s parent company origin in China. Furthermore, the platform’s ability to allows companies to create advertisements without ever speaking to a sales representative puts into quest

Only deepening the fear of hacking was Twitter’s wide scale Bitcoin hack on July 15. Hackers were able to take over prominent accounts – Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Kanye West, and even former President Obama – and scam consumers into taking their cash; the scammers made $118,000 in three hours.


As noted in our last post, Facebook’s advertising boycott has now been adopted by over 1000 organizations. Facebook, usually thought to be a solid advertising choice with over 1.62 billion daily users, could now be the source of criticism for your company. If that weren’t challenging enough, Facebook is now the parent company of Instagram, which is also included in the boycott.

Confusingly, some boycott participants are pulling ads from Facebook for July only, while others have pledged to stay away until the company makes major changes to its content moderation policies, according to The New York Times.

Marketers must work to decide what type of action is right for their brand. A short boycott could risk backlash from consumers and may damage the brand. A long boycott could mean missing opportunities with new customers on the Facebook platform.

Marketers must carefully measure the risks and rewards of participating in all facets of boycotts. Understanding what your consumer base wants and needs is critically important. Finding ways to listen to their voices – via social media, email surveys, and call centers – will help best test sentiment. 

Who Owns You?

Even traditional newspapers may not be a safe bet. The Washington Post is now owned by Jeff Bezos, Fast Company and Inc. are owned by Morningstar CEO Joe Mansueto, and The New York Times is owned in part by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu. In fact, 15 billionaires own the majority of all American news companies.

Trust among the 30 top news sources is already fractured. Pew Research Center found almost half of the 30 sources (13) are trusted by at least 33% of Democrats, but only two are trusted by at least 33% of Republicans.

Further dividing trust among these groups are partisan references to ownership. President Trump has referred to the D.C. based newspaper as “The Amazon Washington Post”.

With the knowledge that trust is paramount to brands and that not all Americans trust all news sources, marketers must be cautious about which brands they engage with. Marketers must also be prepared to quickly move out of engagements with brands that are at high risk due to questions around ownership that may come in to play.

What Consumers Want Now

Consumers are hoping for a few things from all brands: authenticity, consistency, and integrity. All these things, of course, equate to trust.

It is no longer enough for marketers to simply hit “go” on a campaign. Marketers must constantly evaluate user volume and engagement on any given platform, have an eye out for legislative barriers and ongoing discord with activist groups, and be aware of ownership.

One thing that marketers can always control is their own native space. When all other platforms seem uneasy, an email marketing campaign is one that brands can control. In Acoustic’s 2020 COVID-19 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, we learned that open rates increased an average of 4.7 percentage points globally from February to April.

Another thing to consider is having a diverse mix of social media advertising. Can you work to increase your LinkedIn promotions? Is Twitter a possibility? Have you considered something influencer partnerships or video games livestreaming on Twitch? The landscape is changing very rapidly, and marketers should be sensitive to this. Don’t chase trends (and the audience that goes with them), but don’t ignore them either.

In the months and quarters ahead, there will be increased opportunities to return to out of home advertising, and also to investigate new ways of engaging. It might seem awkward now, but watch for branded plexiglass shields at the cash registers (great opportunity for bottled water to talk about “clean and clear”) and sponsored face masks on restaurant servers.

The most important thing is meeting people where they are and ensuring you’re constantly being effective.

We’d love to connect to hear your thoughts on this important topic. Please connect with me on LinkedIn.