If you have ever walked down a road in Hong Kong, you will have noticed the amazing amount of advertising wowing for your attention. It’s everywhere: Shop windows are screaming at you, posters, signs, walls of houses are covered with slogans and signs –even where you would have expected to see blue sky, all you see are adverts hanging over the road. And while Hong Kong (or many similar Asian cities) is more covered in advertising than most Western cities, the truth is that we in the west are probably not that far of (yes, we can still see the sky). No wonder then that people have developed increasingly more effective better ways of blending out, of disengaging and ignoring the screaming billboards, yelling posters in the windows – and bellowing neon lights. So, what is the solution? Many advertisers still feel is appropriate to “disrupt and engage” – disregarding what the effect of this is. And if this can no longer be done on the street, then let’s quickly do it somewhere else: find a new medium, a different channel where the consumer has not as yet developed “persuasion knowledge”.
New(-ish or most hyped) idea: let’s engage everyone in social networks. From facebook to twitter, from renren to pinterest: let’s engage people to follow, like, interact and share everything: I should like the tea bags lingering in my cupboard, the chocolate I had after lunch, the wine I drank last night, the musical I saw recently – and the one I saw a month ago. In fact, it seems like a good idea to like more brands on facebook than I have friends. Just how realistic is this idea? How many brands can a normal human being realistically follow, share, retweet and like? And at what point will most people realise that all the shared little stories, the funny “How are you going to celebrate the weekend? How about drinking an XYZ” have just overtaken the “social “ in the “social network” – and turned it into a continuous stream of ever louder “brand engagements”? In fact, even by simply following two or three brands, complemented by friends who seem to share and like every semi-amusing statement made on a “fan page”, it seems that my “news stream” has actually turned into a commercial stream. Every brand seems to shout at me every day, sometimes a few times. Probably more so than any one friend I follow. So – what do I learn from this: Just like walking down a street in Hong Kong, I now started to learn to “unlike” the screaming brands on facebook, to “unfollow” the brands on twitter. So that finally, I’ll be able to see those people I’m actually interested in.
Unfortunately, this means that my last active brand engagement with these brands is a virtual “unlike”. An active click to “dis-engage” myself from the brand. I applaud the fact I can do this. On the street, I simply passively blank the adverts out. I don’t develop any feelings towards the twenty fifth sign on the left… How much worse is getting actively annoyed with a brand and enthusiastically silencing a brand? Will it tick my brand attitudes towards this brand into negative territory?