Small Business Marketing by Jillian Shaw Marketing, Advertising & Public Relations for the Small Business

Explaining Advertising Saturation

06.24.2010 · Posted in Advertising, How Tos, Marketing, Media, Targeting

Small Business Advertising Market Saturation

How absorbent is your media mix?

Have you ever seen an ad that made you say “If I see that commercial one more time I’m going to scream!”  That’s because the brand is trying to saturate the market.  Saturation is can be a difficult concept to grasp, but for small business owners, a condensed definition is all that’s necessary in order to put the information to work for  you.

Saturation simply refers to the amount of advertising that is being absorbed by a specific market.

Saturation is usually described as a percentage. For example, if you’re purchasing billboard space around your town, five billboards strategically placed all around and through the city will probably been seen by every driver multiple times over the course of a week (the standard rental period for a billboard is a week).  Every driver = 100% of drivers = 100% saturation.

It’s important to note that you can really only get to 100% saturation. Spending any more money above that point is a waste. Your billboards can’t be seen by 110% of drivers, so why spend that extra 10% of your budget?  That would make you the annoying business whose ads you can’t escape. You don’t want to be that guy.

Market saturation is measured through statistical models and lots of math that I’ll admit I can’t begin to fully understand. If you want a more in-depth explanation, however, check out this rather lengthy Hirsch and Schweizer article, The Advertising Saturation Point. It gives a well-researched explanation of how and why ad saturation matters, especially to your bottom line.

Luckily for you small business owners, chances are your market is a small to medium-sized geographic area, so reaching a high saturation is not as expensive as you might think.

Every advertising medium will have different ways to measure and define advertising saturation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re buying ad space or air time. The more you know, the more effectively you can spend your advertising dollar.

How much advertising saturation is enough for a small business? A good rule of thumb is to completely saturated the market through your top priority advertising medium only before moving on to another medium.  So if you choose to place 30-second ads on the radio, you’ll want to reach 100% saturation through that medium before spending money on a second medium. In other words, 50% saturation on radio and 50% saturation in the newspaper does NOT equal 100% saturation.  Different media often have different audiences, therefore the crossover you’re looking for may not exist in order to hit your target market at 100% saturation.

If you want to learn more about the effect of advertising saturation, check out this article on adstock. I’d also highly encourage you to talk to your media vendors about saturation and how advertising saturation changes through out the day, week, month or year or due to special events at their station/channel/publication.  This will give you a handle on when the best times to buy are.

Jillian's Currently Reading: Guerrilla Marketing, 4th edition: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business
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