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“Attention –notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important.”
For a piece of communication or advertising to work, we need to pay attention to it. Yet increasingly we don’t. It’s not just me who thinks this. With so much messaging ‘stuff’ now being thrown at us, it’s so easy for any message to get lost.
The result? Most advertising goes unnoticed or isn’t remembered. Consider some important statistics;
We live in an age of overwhelming advertising and information overload. If you’ve ever used Twitter in any form and followed even just a few hundred people you will know that there is more than enough information shared in 24 hours for anyone to take in properly.
Whether you’ve willingly signed up for more communication than you can manage or are having it pushed in front of you, users have started to push back. And those in the know are saying no to ads. Adblockers have become a real problem for publishers. There are now over 190m internet users blocking ads, blocking over $22 BILLION of adverts last year.
When there is so much information, messaging, interruption, advertising, marketing, discussions, alerts and general ARGH each day, there is a real challenge for brands and even people to cut through and maintain attention. Even for a more than a few seconds.
Thanks to the proliferation of mobile ‘phones’ we are now at the mercy of digital giants every single minute of the day - if we want it. I really question if we actually need even 90% of the distractions that we allow ourselves to be subjected to each day. Ask yourself - do I need to check my phone 30, 50 or even 150 times per day? Do I need to react to that email or text or Facebook message right away? How in the moment am I actually?
As humans in the middle of our digital world, we are pretty awful at giving our full attention to one or even two things. We don’t multi task. We task switch and there is a BIG difference (see: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-wise/201209/the-true-cost-multi-tasking). Even now writing this I’m listening to music and the office buzz at the same time, trying to process all of it all. It makes getting words down on the screen pretty tough.
The struggle to ‘multi-task’ isn’t new but with the ability to be connected and messaged at any point, we’ve grown to fill in even the tiniest gaps in our day, shredding our attention spans in the process. I once heard a story which said that Angry Birds wasn’t built just to be a nice game to play. Its inventor wanted to create something to fill the micro moments we used to leave for nothing or pondering, with something else. And simple fun games were his weapon of choice.
But it’s not only exploding pigs that conquer our time. Many companies have achieved billion dollar valuations whilst only keeping our attention for less than a minute on average.
So, should we be focussing our attention as businesses to target these micro moments? Or should we be going against the grain and working on longer form content that has real value? This chart from attention expert Faris Yakob is a good place to start when looking at the content to create for your audience.
But what’s right for you? The answer, as always, is never simple. Every business is different and the market that they want to target will decide what route is best. Taking a strategic and long term view will always work in your favour if you have someone who can perform this roll. One thing is for sure, just blasting our irrelevant, annoying or unseen advertising is going to work even less effectively in the future.
But for me the wider picture is this – do we really understand our audience? Do we as marketers really know how to add value? Or do we take the blunderbuss approach which is seemingly what most big businesses seem to do.
Gary Vaynerchuk famously said in a recent video that he will NEVER buy Samsung product again due to their relentless targeting while he was trying to find out information. This is an extreme example but does highlight that our attention is at a premium and undervalued. We do not want to have our attention interrupted by some brand shoving their stuff at us at the most inopportune moment. This is why most social media ads have such poor click rates. We do not go on most websites or social media to be sold to.
The worst culprits of the attention attack tend to be blue chip companies. They have the pockets deep enough to push millions of views at us with budgets of millions behind them. Yet the more pervasive they become and the less attention they pay to our attention, the more they open up opportunity to smaller, more nimble and clever companies to reach their audiences.
To return to our starting point of what attention is – to be seen as being important and being taken notice of – for me this can be achieved in many ways. It doesn’t have to be how big businesses often do it by buying our attention through noise.
You can get attention by standing out and being memorable.
You can get attention by poking fun at your competition.
You can get attention by standing for something.
However you do it, don’t just do whatever everyone else does.
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