My biggest marketing mistake

Jason McMillion
Jun 28, 2014 · 4 min read

The #1 enemy of marketing
After 15 years of marketing, working both with several of my own companies and within larger corporations, I still feel I’m only scratching the surface of becoming an effective marketer. Yes, marketing is that difficult.

Well, that was true until recently. For a few years now, I’ve been questioning everything regarding both my own and other people’s marketing efforts. And there is one mistake that all of us seem to be committing repeatedly: assuming too much about what other people see and understand.

Assuming too much about the audience is, in my opinion, the number one enemy of a high performing marketing campaign.

The tapping experiment
It is often the case that as soon as we are aware of knowing something, we seem to unconsciously assume that everyone else knows it as well. I think the tapping experiment exemplifies it quite well (described in one of my favorite books on communication, Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath). It goes like this. A person plays a simple tune in their mind and then taps it on a table with their finger. The tapper thinks (assumes) that guessing the tune he/she is tapping is quite easy. However, for the person listening to the taps, it’s actually very difficult. Give it a try with your friends!

The reason it is difficult for the listeners is that they don’t have the tune playing in their head. The only information they receive is the seemingly random taps on the table.

Your magazine ad is communicating ‘tap, tap, tap’
The tapping experiment is really a great example of what effective communication is all about, whether you’re trying to convince your friend of a great idea, selling your new wonderful product, teaching, or marketing. With most marketing the communication medium is purely visual compared to activating several senses when you are communicating in person. Communicating with only images makes the communication process more difficult. But, did you know you can use this limitation to your advantage! If you know exactly what the reader’s eyes are fixating on, you will have a good idea of which bits of information the person’s brain is actually taking in for processing. Some bits will only be taps, other bits of information may actually create a tune.

Stop assuming — start playing the tune
So how do we create an ad (or any marketing material) that plays a tune instead of a few taps? First of all, stop making assumptions about what readers are seeing. Stop assuming that people will look at and read your entire ad. Stop assuming that people will actually understand what your offer is about. Instead, start gathering insights about what people actually take in when they see your ad. People usually look at ads for only a few seconds (unless they are really interested) before flipping the page. This means their eyes will only fixate on, and their brain notice, a few of the elements included in your ad design. When you create your marketing material based on the assumption that readers will automatically get the message, you will probably only provide them with a few taps. As a marketer, your job is to make sure that your tune plays in the readers’ minds, and this has to happen within a few seconds.

Sound impossible? Thanks to the technique of eye tracking, it can be done — and quite easily as well.

Eye tracking for your marketing
I find the technique of eye tracking fascinating because it provides so much extremely valuable data for the marketer. If you’re not familiar with eye tracking, it’s about recording a person’s eye movements, for example, what they’re looking at on a screen. Eye tracking is an effective source of information simply because what our eyes fixate on is also what our brain will process. The fixation area is usually quite small, about one fixation per short word when reading. For a magazine ad, knowing what elements people fixate on means knowing what people reading your ad will actually understand. And what people understand is what determines whether they are going to keep reading your ad or not.

Time to take your marketing to a whole new level
By running an eye tracking test on your marketing material, you can gather valuable data on which elements of your design people actually fixate on. From this you will know what people actually take in when they look at your ad — are they looking at elements that are less important for understanding the main message, or are they looking at your main communication that paints a clear picture of what the ad is all about?

When you know where people are looking, you can adjust your design to make sure people look exactly where you want them to look. You will simply be more confident that the reader will hear a tune instead of only a few taps, and that changes everything. People will read your ad longer, and many more of them, who otherwise would have flipped the page, may eventually take action and buy your product.

And the difference can be huge, I’m not talking about a 1-2% conversion increase, I’m talking 50%, 100%, or even 500%!

There you go — convert that tap into a tune and take your marketing to a whole new level.

If you felt this article brought you any value — I’m always happy for a like, share or comment.

About the author
Jason McMillion
Founder Upstain — Changing the world of marketing

    Jason McMillion

    Written by

    Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Founder

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