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The Fight for Attention in Marketing

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by: John Watton (@jwatton)
30 July 2013

Recently I did something very unusual. I gave my full attention to some content.

I know, amazing right? It sounds a strange thing to say, but I've come to realise that for most of my waking hours, I can't go 10 minutes without checking social media, "second screening" (or, worse still, "third screening") or flicking refresh on my iPhone to check my email.  

But, for once, I decided to check out of the digital fire hose and focus. OK, so it happened to be music-related. I'm an avid music fan and have 13,341 (I checked) songs in iTunes. And in this age of ADD, I (sometimes) couldn't name the artist, (most of the time) couldn't name the track and (definitely) couldn't tell you the album name for my recent purchases. But this time was different. It was the release of the new album Immunity by the London-based experimental electronic musician Jon Hopkins — someone whom I admire a lot and, to use a marketing term, has a lot of "share of mind" with me. 

So on my daily train commute I put away my phone(s), kept my Kindle shut and just listened. And very enjoyable it was too!

But it did raise a question: In my professional life, how much of my target audience lavishes such attention on the content I'm producing? It's said the average consumer is exposed to upwards of 30,000 marketing messages a day — on the way to work, on radio/TV, in the email inbox, online and in social media. That's an amazing amount of noise to compete with, and it’s no surprise that Fournaise Group estimates that the average consumer attention span is now 4 seconds.

And don't think this is just a B2C problem. I was recently speaking to someone at a technology research firm who told me that its analysts have to cover anywhere between 100 and 1,000 vendors. And of course, as human beings, they're doing well to know 12 to 15.

Regardless of industry, then, your fight as marketers is in getting attention. So how do you do it? Here are some ideas:

STOP thinking that people care about your products as much as you do.
START appreciating the attention game and really honing your messaging skills.

STOP believing that people have the time to read, reread and digest deep content.
START thinking like an entertainment brand and produce engaging, stimulating, even amusing bite-size chunks of content.

STOP spraying and praying, bombarding your database with emails when it's convenient for you.
START building behaviour-triggered messages that are relevant to the individual and timed to when it’s best for them.

The solution is clear: Marketing automation + content marketing are powerful forces in the fight for attention. Get them right, and you may be your customers’ next favourite brand. Get them wrong, and they may not even remember your name.

Related Resources:
1) White Paper: “20 Ways to Personalize Content and Enhance the Customer Experience
2) Ebook: “Print Money Today: 7 Emails Marketers Should Automate to Drive Massive ROI
3) Blog: “Why You Should Do What Apple Does (Just This Once)


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