The Art and Science of Marketing to Different Attention Types. Which attention type are you?
“Our attention span has decreased to eight seconds, shorter than a goldfish’s memory span of nine seconds.” You’ve likely heard this many times before. Did you know it’s bullshit?
Several reports, including this BBC article, have busted the stats as myths. Turns out, the numbers were included in a 2015 report from Microsoft Canada. Since Microsoft is a renowned brand people accepted the stats as fact. Publications like Time magazine and the New York Times and other experts cited the report and consequently increased its popularity.
However, other readers decided to dive deep into the report and discovered that the stats came from unverified sources. So the mythbusting began.
I actually agree with the latest reports. People’s attention span has not shortened.
What’s happened is many of us find it hard to focus because we’re overwhelmed by the amount of choices and content available in life, especially when life connects with the digital landscape.
As a digital marketer, this poses a great challenge. How can we engage our clients’ target audiences if they can’t focus their attention?
To answer that question, we must first understand three fundamental types of attention.
3 types of attention
1. Sustained attention
Sustained attention refers to our capacity to concentrate on a single task or activity for an extended period whilst resisting the tempation to switch to another activity.
Terms like getting into the zone or finding your flow are related to this type of attention.
It’s crucial for tasks that demand continuous effort and concentration, such as writing an article, working on a complex project, or even doing meditation.
At Ooze, we encourage everyone to block off time for activities that require sustained attention. We schedule these blocks of time in our calendars so the whole team know when we’re in focused time. We also deliberately create a distraction-free environment (no notifications, phones on mute, etc.). And we create focus triggers like drinking a cup of coffee or doing some deep breathing to prompt our mind and bodies that it’s time to focus.
2. Selective attention
Selective attention refers to our ability to concentrate on what is most relevant while filtering out distracting stimuli.
This is what we do when we work in a noisy office or a co-working space. Or when we’re driving in a busy lane. Or when we’re watching a game whilst ignoring other rowdy fans in a stadium.
By focusing solely on what we need to do, we block out conversations or background noise for a certain period.
3. Divided attention
Divided attention is synonymous with multitasking. It involves allocating short bursts of focus to multiple tasks or stimuli. Watching a movie on a tablet whilst eating. Answering an email whilst in a meeting.
In the modern world, multitasking is another popular idea. People seem to love or even promote multitasking because it feels like a productive ability. There are even job ads that require the ability to multitask in their list of must-have skills.
However, research shows our brains are not wired to multitask. When we rapidly switch our attention from one task to another, our cognitive resources suffer since they’re spread thin. Basically, we become less efficient and more prone to errors the more we multitask.
Marketing strategies to gain attention
So how can we effectively market based on these three types of attention? Here are some ideas.
Strategies for sustained attention
To capture and maintain customers’ sustained attention, provide them with in-depth and engaging content such as long-form articles, educational videos, or interactive experiences.
Storytelling is a powerful tool to keep customers engaged, as it evokes emotions and keeps them connected to the brand’s message.
For example, if you’re a travel brand then you can create a series of tutorial videos on what to bring, what to wear, or what to avoid during a hike. Even just 5-minute tutorials can add up to almost an hour of your audience’s time if you create a 10-part series. Even better, you allow your customers to go back to previous videos when they need to. That’s additional time they spend with your brand.
Strategies for selective attention
Creating an ad that stands out is a constant challenge in marketing.
However, when you use visually striking elements and emotional triggers to draw attention to specific aspects of your product or service, your ad has a higher chance of being noticed and remembered.
Show your target audience that you understand them. That your brand can provide what they need and want. Then use your creativity, humour, and expertise to express this in a great ad.
The designs and copy don’t need to be elaborate. As I wrote in this post, a great ad speaks for itself by saying less.
Strategies for divided attention
Now we come to the type of attention that’s hardest to engage.
However, this is where KISS can be useful. Keep It Short and Sweet. Deliver simple messages in easy to understand formats. Go for short videos or infographics.
You can also use multiple channels so you reach your audience in different contexts.
For example, we help our B2B clients deliver their messages through LinkedIn posts, emails, LinkedIn and Facebook digital ads, and lead magnets with eye-catching visuals and concise taglines.
Whether it’s sustained, selective, or divided attention, effective marketing campaigns can leave a lasting impression and build meaningful connections with your target audience.
When you harness the power of the different types of attention, you expand your brand’s marketing strategies and reach your target audience in different forms and channels. You engage with them when and where they want it.