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How Brands Are Using Nonlinear Marketing to Confront the Threat of Ad Blockers

Last week, Google announced that it was introducing an ad blocker into new versions of the Chrome browser.

As you know, ad blockers are being installed by a growing number of internet users around the globe. Check out the data below to get a sense of how many people are using them in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Why some brands aren’t worried about ad blockers

A few months ago, I introduced a concept to our readers called nonlinear marketing. The term describes a pattern I spotted in the marketplace — that some brands have completely abandoned traditional marketing and are replaced it with something new which I’m calling nonlinear marketing.

Nonlinear marketing is a strategic approach used by Red Bull, Starbucks, and other brands to weave their brand into the lives of their prospects and customers.

It came about as a result of new insights into the consumer decision-making process. You’ll recall that for more than 100 years the consumer decision-making process has been described as a linear process seen in the graphic below.

The problem with traditional consumer decision-making models is that they don’t accurately portray reality. After all, virtually every person reading this blog post can remember purchasing something first (usually at the cash register) and then going through other stages later. When that happened, the process might have looked more like this:

There might have been other times where the process has looked like this:

The point I’m trying to make is that the consumer decision-making process isn’t a linear series of events. Instead, it’s nonlinear. 

It’s fascinating to me that we’ve been living with a consumer decision-making model for 50 or 100 years that doesn’t accurately portray reality. To make matters worse, the regular patterns of media consumption have changed recently, too.

Check out this data from the Nielsen and The Wall Street Journal that highlight the drastic change that’s taking place with the way we consume media.

Then, on top of all these changes, you can add the rise of the ad blockers to the list of things that marketers are trying to confront. The adoption of ad blockers was driven, in part, by a change in consumer sentiments about marketing and advertising. The bottom line is that consumers really don’t like advertising all that much … and that sentiment is getting worse with every passing day.

What’s come along to replace the traditional methods of marketing and advertising?

Nonlinear marketing, which is a way to bypass ad blockers and negative emotions people have about traditional methods of marketing.

Nonlinear marketing isn’t a tactic or a series of tactics. Instead, it’s a strategic approach that brands use to envelop and encompass a consumer’s life.

Instead of interrupting a passive experience (such as watching TV, listening to the radio, etc.), nonlinear marketing allows a brand to actively participate in the life of the consumer.

One of the best examples of a brand that is using nonlinear marketing is Red Bull. The brand doesn’t run traditional campaigns. Instead, it weaves itself into the lives of consumers through events (Red Bull Cliff Diving, Red Bull Air Race, Red Bull Crashed Ice), sports team ownerships (Flying Bulls, Red Bull Racing), music (Red Bull Records) and sports endorsements.

Other brands that are using nonlinear marketing to bypass traditional marketing and advertising tactics include Swatch and Starbucks.

Check out the images of a recent Swatch campaign below. The one on the left would have been a traditional method of marketing which was built upon impressions. The idea was just to get a brand impression out to consumers by putting some signage up on a building.

But rather than use the traditional approach, Swatch used nonlinear marketing instead, which is to weave the brand into the lives of their prospects and customers by creating an experience that is participatory in nature.

Instead of just a logo, they put an entire watch on the side of the building so that people could actually use the product in an engaging and memorable fashion.

Putting all this into action for your brand

It’s important to remember that nonlinear marketing isn’t a tactic — it’s a strategy. In other words, nonlinear marketing is about the strategy that your brand has decided to use in order to go to market.

If you’re new to the concept, your first step is to start trying to identify brands that are using nonlinear marketing and to think through how their approach differs from traditional marketing.

You might also consider watching the short video below which provides further insights into what nonlinear marketing is and how it’s being used by brands around the globe.

About the Author: Jamie Turner is an internationally-recognized author, speaker, and business thought-leader. You’ll find him on the 60 Second Marketer and as an expert commentator on CNN. He is the founder of SIXTY, a marketing consultancy and advisory firm that helps clients get more bang for their marketing buck.

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