By Vlad Gozman, a serial entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of involve me. Follow @vladgozman on Twitter.
It seems like everywhere you look, someone is trying to get your attention. As reported in a https://cafe-madrid.com/ article experts estimate that we see 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day. And it’s not just companies; even our personal relationships are affected by the never-ending quest for our attention. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information and stimuli, it is more important than ever to understand the science of attention and how it works.
The human brain is programmed to pay attention to certain things and ignore others. This evolved over time as a survival mechanism; for example, our ancestors needed to be able to quickly spot predators and threats and pay less attention to things like rustling leaves in the wind. Today we still have the same basic system, where: attention is limited in capacity and durationbut it is overloaded with information.
This constant demand for our attention can lead to what is known as ‘attention fatigue’. When we’re tired, our brains just can’t process all the information coming at us and we start missing things. Businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to grab and hold our attention as we get better at shielding the noise.
How marketers can grab attention
Attention is the currency of the 21st century and businesses need to understand how to get and keep it. A marketer who fails to attract eyeballs risks losing his job, and a company that doesn’t understand the science of attention can quickly be left behind.
Fortunately, there are some basics that companies can use to grab and hold our attention. One of the most important is engagement. People are more likely to pay attention to something if they are actively engaged in it, so companies need to find ways to make their products and services more attractive.
Interactive content is the key to engagement and there are a number of ways to make content more interactive. Even a simple quiz can be enough to pique someone’s interest and make them pay attention to your message. Or a poll or survey can make people think about your brand in a different way.
Another important technique that attracts attention is known as reciprocity. This is the idea that we are more likely to pay attention to something if we feel that we have been given something first. So, for example, if you give away a free report or whitepaper, people are more likely to read it and pay attention to your brand. Companies can bring the ideas of reciprocity and engagement together by offering interactive content that leads to more valuable content later, or even a giveaway that requires people to take action first.
Stories are another way to tap into our emotions and create a bond with the brand. They can be used to educate, entertain, or even shock us into paying attention. For example, Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign told inspiring stories of athletes overcoming adversity while simultaneously selling the Nike brand.
The changing attention landscape
The science of mindfulness is constantly evolving and companies need to stay on top of the latest changes to keep their audiences engaged. For example, the success of apps like TikTok shows that people are increasingly drawn to content that is short, creative and personal. Stories are still important, but they need to be told in new and interesting ways.
Emerging formats, such as VR/AR, are also changing the way we consume content. These formats are more immersive and can grab our attention in a way that traditional formats can’t. Companies need to experiment with these new technologies to find ways to use them in their marketing campaigns. With Facebook turning to a metaverse-first business, it’s clear that engagement will continue to be a key metric for companies in the attention economy.
While consumers demand compelling content, they also want more control over the ads they see. Ad blocking software is on the rise and people are becoming more sophisticated in their ability to ignore marketing messages. Companies must be transparent in their marketing and offer people the option of not seeing certain advertisements. In other words, the days of third-party cookies and intrusive ads are numbered.
Instead, zero-party data, which is voluntarily shared by consumers, is likely to become increasingly important. With this data, companies can create more targeted and personalized messages, which are more likely to be seen and acted upon.
Finally, it is important to remember that attention is a finite resource. We only have so much attention to give, and we quickly reach a point of saturation. Companies need to be aware of how they use our attention and make sure they provide real value in return.
The science of attention is complex, but understanding the basics can give companies a head start in the attention economy. By focusing on engagement, reciprocity and storytelling, companies can create marketing campaigns that grab our attention and hold it long enough to make an impact.