When is it the right time to advertise to someone?

by Nigel Hollis | November 01, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I suggested that I would come back to the idea that there is a right time to advertise to someone. Right now the marketing world seems to have decided that the right time to get a message to someone is as close to point of purchase as possible, but is that really true?

As you may have realized, I have been giving a bit of thought to how people make decisions recently. And it reminds me that much as people’s decisions are shaped by emotions and context, individuals try to make the right decision; the one that will have the best outcome for them. This means that people will try to make up their own mind about what to buy, particularly if the purchase is expensive or risky.

Increasingly, however, we have the ability to reach people with advertising close to the point of decision. While the targeting may still not be as accurate as marketers might like, the chances of reaching someone close to making a purchase are probably improved. The only problem being that if someone cares enough about a purchase to exhibit behavior indicative that they are about to make a purchase – searching, reviewing, checking out websites – then they are likely also trying to make up their own minds about the purchase and will be more likely to discount the information provided by advertising.


Unfortunately reaching people at the time when they are most likely to consciously deliberate their choice - comparing brands in terms of features, benefits and prices - means that advertising needs to be more forceful than it might otherwise. Tangible claims and price discounts are more likely to sway someone’s deliberations. And all too often the price discount prevails at the expense of the brand’s profits.

Of course the ideal is combine strong predisposition to buy with a strong call to action. Then all someone might need to sway the purchase is a reminder of what the brand stands for. I remember being told that “America’s favorite” had proven to generate more sales when used as a point of sale claim than any price discount. Effective activation is all about triggering the right associations at the right time not creating them from scratch.

Brands grow by building salience, informed by perceptions of difference and affinity, through advertising, online content, reviews, PR and word of mouth. Given the diverse reasons why someone might consider a brand, it is important to ensure the brand is salient in relation to different category entry points for different people. This is where the true benefit of today’s targeting technology can really make a difference by ensuring that a timely reminder is delivered, triggering positive predisposition previously built through brand advertising.

I believe whether a message is right or not depends on when it is delivered before or during search and shopping. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.