This column, written by Pat LaPointe EVP at Resonate, originally appeared in MediaPost – Media Daily News September 9

Consumers are increasingly constructing their own digital “content cocoons.” From their Facebook network to apps for their favorite stores, consumers exert more control over the content and messages they are exposed to than any time in history.

Now consumers are curating their advertising experiences, as well with ad blocking.

As a result, there is a battle between advertisers that try desperately to get their message in front of the right consumers, and the consumers who work hard to not be exposed to things they’re not interested in.

A recent report by PageFair and Adobe finds that 6% of the online population uses an ad blocker, a 41% increase over last year. Apple will offer an ad blocker in its newest OS.

Ad blocking will hardly kill advertising; it’s what drives the Internet. Yet, it is a growing threat to the way marketers have traditionally approached marketing – to push mass messages out through standard channels and hope that the right audience is exposed to enough to drive revenue.

The rise in ad blocking is a sign that advertisers need to re-engineer their dialogue with consumers to be a relevant part of consumers’ “content cocoons.”

Consumers Assume You Know What They Want. But Do You?

Consumers have been leaving a trail of digital breadcrumbs online for years — from searches and shopping info to social media comments to survey responses.

Many marketers have collected the information, but have done a less-than-stellar job of putting the picture together.

With the rise of content cocoons, it is vital that marketers work to assemble better pictures of their consumers, or risk losing consumer contact completely.

As consumers exert more control over their digital experiences, they actually expect relevance, particularly on mobile. This means doing more that simply retargeting shopping or search behaviors. As consumers continue to wield more control over their experiences, the imperative to meet their expectations rises considerably.

*Consumers expect that marketers are up to date. (e.g. don’t market that shirt to me, I just bought it!)

*Consumers expect that marketers know why they are behaving in a certain way. (e.g. I bought a Honda because it is reliable, not because it’s cool.)

*Consumers expect that marketers know who they are intrinsically. (e.g. I am interested in innovative and unique electronics, not deals on last-years’ models.)

Blend In to Earn Access to the Cocoon

How can marketers meet these demands? By understanding what drives a consumer to create their content cocoon and blending in.

First, marketers need to take a more deliberate targeted approach. Ad blocking happens both because of irrelevant generic messages but also because of creepy or badly targeted messages. Marketers that go the extra mile will find a few distinct audiences more likely to find the message relevant, and may decide to leave one or more groups out rather than risk alienating them.

For this shift to happen, the metrics of success have to change from generating “impressions” to building “engagement” in the form of access, sharing, or exploration. Marketers can look at how much consumers opt in, use apps, read email, shop, or how they search for key topics.

Next, marketers need to match their tempo to a consumer’s activity levels. Consumers don’t care if email, advertising or mobile coupons came from three different divisions of a company, they see it as one brand conversation.

Just because someone bought a Ford doesn’t mean they want to a get magazine every month about the latest Ford cars and events, and this may provoke them to unsubscribe to emails they would have otherwise benefited from.

Finally, marketers must treat each message as if it’s part of a consumer’s own curated online persona. Some people are family-oriented; some are loners. Some care strongly about issues while some just want to have fun.

These differences matter because they allow marketers to speak the appropriate language with their audience. The tone that a marketer strikes is more important than ever because consumers have surrounded themselves with content that fits who they are.

Marketers must improve their ability to interpret the breadcrumbs that consumers leave online to build the right picture of each consumer because the consequences of alienation are so much higher than before. Every layer of the cocoon makes it harder and more expensive for marketers to break-thru to engage the consumer.

By adapting to individual content cocoons, marketers can avoid the old pitfalls of advertising – irrelevant messages – and the new pitfalls — being shut out entirely.