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Timing is everything

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In the timeless words of the ever-charming Ronan Keating… sometimes you say it best when you say nothing at all. But when do you choose silence over noise for your marketing voice?

Are you one of those people who gets annoyed by Christmas decorations in malls in October? I do hope so. Every year we’re inundated with festive messages earlier and earlier. Perhaps they think that, as busy people, the sooner they get into our brains the better. But we switch off to it, until mid-December, don’t we? Or, worse, get irritated.

We’ve seen it this year too with local body elections. Am I wrong, or did they start making noise particularly early this time?

Timing your messages right is an ongoing marketing and communications conundrum. Do you take your message to your audience in plenty of time, so it has the opportunity to percolate, to really sink into their brains? Or is there a risk that they’ll forget, or even worse, get fed up with your message drip, drip, dripping in their heads for too long?

I guess it depends on how connected they are with your brand and whether, consciously or not, they really want to hear from you. Are you telling them about something new that will really excite them, or a regular offer they’ve been hanging out to hear? If it’s something they hear from you frequently, they’re probably not sitting around waiting for you. I, for one, am not scrolling through my Instagram feed, hunting out the next Air New Zealand ad.

There are obvious times of the year that naturally boost the appearance of certain topics of advertising, of course. Perfumes coming up to Mother’s Day. Toolkits as we approach Father’s Day. (Let’s take a quiet moment to eye-roll about gender stereotyping while we’re at it.)

Seasonality is an obvious influence too. We might think about booking a sun-soaked holiday when it’s icy cold outside, when we want to be able to dream ahead to the time when we’ll be relaxing on a beach. But we’re probably not going to buy our sunglasses particularly far in advance.

But when it comes to needing to change people’s opinions or behaviours, rather than encouraging them to buy a product, your timing may be driven by less tangible factors. In that case, you really have to think carefully about the media habits of your audience and the wider influences that will affect their decision-making.

If you’re wanting people to do things differently – such as IRD changing a process – telling them six months out is helpful, yes, but likely to be forgotten without regular reminders.

The problem is that we’re human. If your company moves to a new location, you can contact your clients months out to tell them, advertise in the weeks leading up to the move, and put signs up around your premises. But you’ll be guaranteed to still have people banging on the door when you’ve gone. We are imperfect, so there is, sadly, no perfect solution.

As consumers, we select which information we want to retain in our overcrowded memories, and sometimes our control over what we store or filter out is not that efficient. We forget, deliberately or not, so your marketing doesn’t only need to resonate enough to help keep it top-of-mind, but your timing needs to be able to give people opportunities to recall that memory, without them feeling bullied.

If our message is not time-bound, we have to create our schedules around when we think our audience will be most receptive to listening to what we have to say.

We know that people need to see a message more than once for it sink in, and probably in more than one format. But we don’t all have the budgets we’d like in order to do that, so have to be smart and selective about targeting as sensibly as we can. As always, it’s all about knowing your audience and the world they live in.

We say ‘right place, right time’ for so many contexts in our lives. In our marketing, not only do we have to focus on the right message, but ‘place’ in terms of our media selection as well. Wait too long for the ‘right time’ and it’s an opportunity missed, but speak too early and your voice can be drowned out by others. 

It wasn’t only Ronan who had a good point to make here, Kenny was on to something too. You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away.

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About Author

Vicki Jones

Vicki Jones is director of Dugmore Jones, Hamilton-based marketing management consultancy. Email vicki@dugmorejones.co.nz