It has been said by many people more respected and knowledgeable than me that attention is our most precious resource. I genuinely believe this to be true.

We live in an age where we are bombarded on a nearly hourly basis to click here, look over there, vote for this or share that. I still find it staggering the number of times I visit a website on my laptop where I’m asked within SECONDS if I’d like to sign up to a newsletter or suchlike when I don’t even know if what’ I’m reading is any good!

It’s like going into Tesco to buy a loaf of bread, looking at the bread in the distance and being asked if I want a 20% discount on Fairy Liquid the moment I step down the third aisle. Or something like that…

These distractions serve no purpose other than to move my attention onto something that I don’t want to see or know about. Ultimately it leads me to going elsewhere where I feel my attention is more valued.

I believe that website / media owners choose to distract me for their own expected benefit rather than mine. By not thinking about me, the user, and choosing to focus on how to improve their own goals by a few percent, they have taken a short sighted approach to building trust and value. People will only decide to follow you or sign up to receive your content if there is something in it for them. Whether it’s to find the latest info to get ahead of the competition, show something impressive to their colleagues or further their own knowledge, we all have our own motivations.

Why have most brand owners (and the marketing industry in general) ended up taking an approach where they feel our attention is there’s to intrude on?

My feeling is that most brands lack soul or depth and don’t stand for much. As a result, people in the widest sense don’t care about them. If, like a lot of businesses, your purpose is to make some profit, shift boxes and offer something everyone else does, there isn’t really much of a story to tell. You compete on price or some other small USP because, well, what else is there?

If no one really cares about what you do other than do ‘an ok job’, then the best way to grow is to take a bazooka approach with your messaging and try hit as many people as quickly and as hard as you can.

This thought was bought to my attention by the effervescent Mark Masters at the recent live Marketing Homebrew where he made this very point.

“Brands need to stand for much more than they currently do and need to clearly demonstrate their passion, knowledge and expertise on a relentless basis.“

When we think about brands that stand for something we often think of Apple or John Lewis. I think we as business owners (and I include myself in this to some extent) don’t feel that we can be like these companies – they are perhaps too far removed or now ‘too big’. But they all started somewhere. And when they did, they did things differently.

They were bold and brave.

And we all need to be bolder and braver (not just agencies).

John Lewis, or rather his son, Spedan, evolved the company into different model of ownership with a belief that this would bring better value to their customers and also their staff. Even on Boxing Day in 2015, when the world and their dog goes shopping, they decided to keep their stores closed.

Apple started with a belief that things could be done differently and they could change the world by challenging the market in their way by being ‘non corporate’. They have been very successful at living this belief over the decades through their products and latterly their marketing efforts.

Bournemouth7s was started seven years ago by one man with a belief that sports and music could come together in one festival to offer an experience not found anywhere else in the world. It started relatively low key but now in 2016 there are expected to be over 30,000 people come to a one of a kind event.

Belief, mission, purpose etc

I’m aware that this subject of belief, purpose, tribes, values, vision, mission etc. has been covered many times by the likes of Simon Sinek, Seth Godin and others and I’m not going to even try and compete with them.

But really if people are going to voluntarily give their attention to your business or what you do they have to at the very least understand why you do what you do and believe in what you are trying to achieve. This is never ever easy. I know that. And it’s made even harder thanks to the world we live in.

Our attention spans are only 8 seconds at best so you are really limited on time in the consumers eyes to tell your story. If you yourself aren’t clear on why you are in business then there are ways and means of trying to figure this out (reading more from the guys listed above is a good start)

If you are clear on this then it makes everything else much easier when it comes to telling a story and understanding where & how to tell it and to whom. If you as a business owner or marketing manager aren’t clear on this then the result is to try and fight on price or some small product offering. You end up becoming a ‘me too’ brand. You join the fight for attention online, offline and in our minds. You pay more for your adverts and bid against everyone else which only ends up with budgets going one way.

To get attention in its truest sense you need to be worthy of it in the first place.

Starting with why has never been so true in these crowded times.

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Meet the author ...

Andy Headington


Andy has been part of Adido since it was an idea in a pub nearly twenty years ago. He loves to work with the Adido team and all of the clients on board asking challenging questions and ...