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As More Say ‘No’ to Ads, It’s Time to Immunize Content Marketing


Around the world, consumers’ power to say “no” to unwanted ads is growing. More and more, people crave complete control of the content they consume. How can content marketing protect itself from this spreading “unwanted-ad disease”?

In France, a pas de publicite  sign stops the delivery of unwanted junk-mail ads. Consumers’ power to choose hurts interruption-driven advertising. Yet it could prove positive for content marketing.


People look forward to great content marketing because it’s helpful. And that’s the difference between content marketing and most advertising. When your content addresses customers’ needs, fears, and pain points in an informative, entertaining way – rather than selling – your customers will want  your content.

Americans’ complete control of the content they receive is surging:

  • More than half of Americans record TV shows to skip the commercials. People increasingly watch TV programming on their mobile devices so they can ignore the ads.
  • Ninety-one percent of consumers unsubscribe, “unlike,” or stop following brands for which they once opted in.
  • Millions of people sign up for the Do Not Call Registry or put their names on stop-junk-mail lists to avoid receiving solicitation calls and mail they don’t want.

As countries grow more vigilant in allowing their citizens to limit junk mail and even billboards, content marketing must immunize itself against the increasing consumer rejection of advertising. We need to help people see clear differences between helpful content marketing and hard-sell advertising. Here are five ways to do it:

1. Permission is gold. Appreciate it with customer-centric content.

The most valuable asset we have is the permission of our readers and customers to share content with them. Earn it every day. Create content your readers will find alluring, relevant, and fascinating – because it’s about them, not about you.

2. Give them what they want.

Some 10% to 20% of your content will greatly outperform the rest, so use analytics to create more of the content your readers want most. Track changes in tastes and keep your content fresh, newsy, and useful.

3. Keep your customers’ names and addresses up to date.

Personalize mail and email to increase the odds your content gets delivered and noticed. Get customers’ names right: Nothing is thrown away faster than a letter addressed to the wrong name.

4. Earn attention in seven seconds.

Remember, in the battle for attention, we compete not only against other marketing but against any content on a page or screen. We need to capture readers’ attention in the first seven seconds. How?

Use images or cartoons, which increase readership by up to 70%. Tell readers what’s in it for them  in the first seven seconds – 23 words or less. Keep headlines, sentences, and paragraphs short and clear. Develop a message map to make your message concise and sticky.

Simple-Message-Map5. If you apply Big Data, be smart. 

People don’t want to feel that sellers know too much about them or that their personal information is being used in the wrong way. Use Big Data judiciously. Avoid making assumptions.

For example, recently a mobile company matched my user file with my U.S. Census data. Because I’m Hispanic, the company began writing me in Spanish – even though I had done business with it for years in English, which is my first language.

When marketers make too big a leap – like assuming it’s OK to change a language preference based on census data – and use Big Data the wrong way, it stinks.


People don’t want to process the clutter of 5,000 advertising messages each day. Yet, customers are willing to receive or view content that is a real help. That’s how content marketing can win attention even as hard-sell advertising loses potency.

Consumers are getting better and better at resisting the marketing they don’t want. It’s up to us content marketers to create what customers do want – and thereby immunize content marketing against “unwanted-ad disease.”

Ready to make an immunization plan? Follow CMI’s simple, step-by-step plan to integrate unique, impactful, and strategic content marketing into your organization. Get our new workbook today.

Cover image by DodgertonSkillhause, morgueFile, via