There is a growing resistance to traditional marketing techniques. Today's customer is more logical, less emotional.

"International scientists say they have found the first evidence of resistance to the world's most effective drug for treating malaria," the BBC stated in 2010.

"The prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria is a result of antibiotic use both within human medicine and veterinary medicine," Wikipedia states. "The greater the duration of exposure the greater the risk of the development of resistance irrespective of the severity of the need for antibiotics."

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was a Russian scientist who rang a bell every time he fed his dogs. On seeing the food, his dogs salivated. After a while, Pavlov just rang the bell and didn't provide any food. The dogs still salivated.

A lot of marketing and advertising is based on concepts of psychological manipulation. A classic example is the hero shot. We all like handsome heros who have great smiles. It's a basic human attraction. These hunks of meat make us salivate. A bell is rung when these hero hunks are presented to us and this bell says: "If you like this hero, you'll love our product!!"

And it works beautifully, particularly for low price fast-moving consumer goods. But there are two questions that need to be addressed:

  • Are these techniques applicable to more complex sales, particularly business-to-business sales? 
  • Is there a growing immunity to the techniques because they have been overused?

When we test customers on websites we see a growing aversion to 'marketing'. Today, if you want to hide something, put it in a big colorful banner with a hero. You're almost guaranteed that your customers will dismiss it as "just marketing".

We did a recently tested a site where people were supposed to click on a link in the top of the right column of a page. This link was part of a colorful banner. Nobody clicked on the link. People scanned up and down the center column, scanned up and down the left column, but totally ignored the right column.

The banner with the link was by far the most prominent piece of content on the page, yet people totally ignored it.

It is true to point out that the right column is a very weak place to put any content. However, in another test, the content that the customer needed to see was placed in a banner in the center column, and they totally ignored that too.

Note: You may also enjoy Web Design: The Decline of the Homepage.

We saw another test of a financial website which showed that adding pictures caused customers to trust the content less. What we need is evidence. I have seen cases where hero shots do work but, in an increasing number of situations, traditional marketing techniques are actually making a negative impression on the customer.

Just because something used to work doesn't mean it will continue to work, particularly if it is overused. More and more customers are becoming immune to traditional marketing and advertising. The new marketing is much more meat and much less bells and whistles.