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From digital overdose to human touch – making sense of the latest marketing jargon

The winds of change are blowing from many directions: The pandemic recovery, supply chain crisis and brand exodus from Russia are ongoing, while the inflation is rising and the war in Ukraine is raging. Consumers around the globe are feeling the onslaught on many fronts.


Annika Konttinen

lehtori, matkailuliiketoiminta
Senior Lecturer, tourism business
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Anu Seppänen

lehtori, markkinointi ja viestintä
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 24.03.2022

The megatrends of climate change, sustainability, digitalisation, and urbanisation are having a lasting impact on their lifestyles, too. In addition to these major shifts, we tried to cut through the noise to hear the latest marketing jargon and to sense some weak signals and trends in the spring breeze.

Consumers in confusion

Consumers who spend a great deal of time using digital devices across different channels and apps are suffering from information overload. Ad fatigue happens when your target audience starts to feel tired of ads. They may feel bored or indifferent towards advertising, stop paying attention to them or even grow to hate ads. Content marketing has become a very popular technique to attract and engage consumers with relevant, engaging and entertaining content. Sometimes content is so intriguing that it can become thumb stopping content – it makes the consumer stop scrolling and take notice.

However, content shock can make marketing efforts unsustainable as consumers cannot digest all the available content even though they would like to do so. Content marketing being a widely approved and recommended approach, there is simply too much content created and when produced in a hurry, it may also be of reduced quality.

Snackable content is content that is made easy to consume and share. Snackable content is short and simple, no need to spend many minutes consuming it. Just like with snacks in general, the idea is to make the consumer hunger for more – make them addicted to the content. To increase snackability, long articles can be divided into several sections, visuals are used to compress a lot of information into infographics or humorous memes, websites should be responsive and headlines eye-catching. But how to break the habit of constant (and in some cases unhealthy) snacking?

Astroturfing and newsjacking are concepts that add to the feeling of being a bit lost among consumers. Astroturfing refers to an online persuasion technique where an organisation, business or political party pays for favourable statements that pretend to be unbiased or creates non-existent persons to create positive buzz in media. Paid social media accounts, exchanging premiums for positive feedback with bloggers, falsified online reviews are some examples of astroturfing.

Newsjacking happens when a company detects trending topics on the news and adds their own thoughts and opinions into news stories, just to get airtime. Consumers need to be aware and constantly look for cues about who is behind the content they are consuming. It is tiring, especially in these times of disinformation.

Shrinkflation is another newsworthy term these days. As inflation is increasing prices overall, consumers may not notice that brands are downsizing items at the same time, i.e., producing smaller packages for a higher price. Consumers may experience shrinkflation when they shop for toilet paper, cookies, and other groceries. Although many consumers are urban dwellers and live alone, and many packages are designed for bigger households, shrinkflation coupled with inflation is not a welcome sign for anyone.

Brands bridging business to humans

Modern marketing focuses on digitalisation and consumers are encircled by technological buzzwords like AI, AR and VR. The digital world often appears impersonal and true connections between people seem to be fading. H2H marketing stresses the idea that at the back of every business, there is a living, breathing human being.

Brands need to be genuine and human. Customers know when services are not authentic. B2H is an acronym like H2H and stands for brand to human. Brands need to humanise themselves and become relatable to consumers. Brands need to show gratitude, ie. say thanks and tell their customers why they enjoy doing business with them. If brands communicate with their customers online, brands need to be social and talk to customers like human to human, ready for interaction and sharing, not delivering cold corporate one-way messages. Automation as we know today lacks community. To avoid confusion about the message, some brands prefer D2C, which stands for direct to consumer.

Social media is all about being social and connecting with each other: sharing ideas, information and inspiration. Indeed, being SoLoMo (social-local-mobile) is the way for brands and consumers to do just that. However, there are brands that need a digital detox just like humans, and have turned off from social media, a famous one being Lush. Tesla has turned its back on Facebook and digital advertising, too. Recently, Ivana Helsinki told their customers that they will quit social media and to keep in touch asked customers to subscribe to their newsletter. They want to connect with their customers in person, IRL personal encounters and experiences (like fashion shows and festivals).

People are also in the focus of another trend taking workplaces by storm: DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion). It is no longer enough to aim at corporate social responsibility and sustainability. Now it is all about companies disclosing their DEI strategy and achievements, telling how they have done with fair treatment and participation of everyone at work. This is in line with the transition from highlighting the environmental aspects to putting more emphasis on the social side of sustainability. Companies boost their DEI strategies also to make themselves attractive as potential employers. Millennials and Gen X want to work for brands that share the same values as they do – and score high on DEI.

Are these phenomena mere buzzwords of the moment or indicators of something of a more permanent nature? That remains to be seen. Perhaps the powerful winds of change will evolve to something transformational and bring positive developments for all of us. We can all do our part to make that change happen!