Minimal marketing: Why less is always more


Ads are everywhere. So much so that it’s questionable if it’s worth competing against them all. But if one thing’s for sure, advertising is here to stay. It’s the “more is better” principle that is on its way out.

Marketing has always trodden a fine line between offering something useful and being downright intrusive. With increasing competition and advancing techniques, more recently this line has been not just crossed but all but forgotten.

Autoplay videos, unstoppable popups, screen-filling banner ads; apart from brute force and creepy targeting, there seems to be no strategy to online marketing today. It’s why more and more people are losing trust in businesses and using ad blockers.

Thanks to big data and almost ubiquitous access to consumers, ad agencies have gotten carried away with themselves and forgot their main purpose of serving people — which is, of course, based on first not peeing them off.

Instead of hammering an impression into an audience so they take — often reluctantly — action, ads should merge effortlessly with the experience a user is already having. Taking the path of least resistance, offering something of value, and making their lives and your ad conversions all the better for it.

This vision of online advertising is becoming less of a fantasy and more a necessity if you want to make an impact a build a loyal audience. Let’s dive into three ways you can do that by adopting an approach of minimal marketing.

Ads can be beautiful

Most ads today deal in escapism and temptation. They use bold statements and titillating imagery, sticking out like sore thumbs and speaking to primal parts of our being to incite a reaction often without us knowing it.

Not only are such ads intrusive on a mental level, they’re visually obtrusive too. They present something aesthetically incoherent that’s offensive to the eyes and mess up the flow of the content.

There’s no reasons ads need to be ugly to get noticed. In fact, much of the value of social media as a marketing platform is because of the beauty and creativity of the visuals. Carefully crafted photos of food and models that appear within larger, visually coherent themes are what people want.

First impressions count. And as we process imagery much quicker than words, the best way to make a great first impression is with purposeful visuals. That doesn’t mean buying better stock photos but prioritising that your ads improve the aesthetics of a page and inform the audience about your brand, before trying to make them sell.

It’s all about location

How often is it you stumble on a website and see an ad that is completely irrelevant to what you’re doing/reading? In our age where ads follow audiences wherever they go, this happens much more often than it should.

As they work on the basis of repeat exposure to something a user has already expressed interest in, the value of targeted ads is high. But when they become stalkerish, they can directly work against the point even when they appear relevant to the surrounding content.

An ad’s relevancy to the user is fundamental. But its relevance to its environment or digital context is ever more important. Just like a pat on the back can be warmly welcomed or terrify someone half to death, how your brand and an ad is received can change dramatically depending on if it is delivered at the right moment and in the right place or in the wrong moment and wrong place.

No matter how supposedly relevant or useful a message, you have to be open to receive it. In the same way, audiences are more receptive to contextualized ads and are better able to understand them. When brands do this they piggyback on the psychological state cultivated by the digital context and allow a friction-minimal transition to their content.

Strategy is everything

A marketing strategy is often confused with using a random mashup of tactics and methods that are the trendiest, easiest, or said to be the most effective.

This can seem to be the best approach in our times when one day a social media platform can be hot and the next day nobody’s using it, and when being an early adopter of the latest craze can be a gamechanger. It appears that the only solution is to be everywhere all at once.

But going viral on social media is rare, and more to the point, it’s only valuable if it’s embedded in a solid marketing strategy. Such a strategy is not a fleeting collection of random tactics but a calculated plan of where you’re heading and how you’re going to get there. Setting out your marketing strategy is like your business’s guiding star: the ultimate objective that’s always there and which you can refer back to when deciding if a new tactic can actually help deliver on your goals.


Joseph Pennington is a freelance writer from the North of England. Connect with him on LinkedIn and find more articles on work, technology, spirituality, and everything in between.