Sunday, November 1, 2009

May I have your Attention?

Heard the phrase 'Attention Economy'? It sounds purpose-designed for our ad-saturated world, but it's not such a new idea - this Guy created the concept back in 1971 when he wrote:
" an information-rich world, the wealth of information means ....scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention"
...and this was in 1971. That's *twenty-eight* years of exponential growth in global information output since then. Advertising clutter? You bet, But the real issue is on the other side of the coin - scarcity of attention.

The scarcer attention is, the more valuable it becomes. Like any commodity. People pay for attention all the time. For example, Washington lobbyists pay for the attention of politicians (um, allegedly). And we marketers pay for the attention of our audiences - a 30 second spot here, a few thousand banner impressions there.

So attention is a currency. One well worth investing in. In fact, attention is the *only* currency through which marketers can interest, educate, persuade and convert customers. Really. Think of any customer acquisition or lifecycle model. Subtract your customer's attention, and you end up with zero customers.

Attention is therefore our lifeblood. Yet on the whole, marketers are terrible at getting it. Come on, this is an industry in which 0.2% response is considered good. Is there any other field in which 0.2% sounds large to you? I suspect that those Washington lobbyists get more attention for their money than we marketers.

So where are we going wrong? Simply, most marketing is years behind consumer behavior. Marketers communicate in messages. Their audiences have perfected the art of tuning messages out. Marketers broadcast, one-way, as if their audience was dumbly awaiting instruction. While audiences are ever more engaged in their own novel, creative communications.

What should we do instead? In a world where economic and technological factors put brands and consumers on a level, brands that want attention have to do like people:

Earn it.

It's straightforward. As a person, you become worth someone's attention when you repay it. Maybe you're useful, or entertaining. Perhaps informative. So long as it is authentic to you, and relevant to the person whose attention you seek, you are repaying attention.

"The true art of memory is the art of attention" — so said Samuel Johnson. So before your audience pays you their custom, your brand needs to repay their attention.

for a deeper dive into the attention economy:

1. Rob Callari, 'Is Attention the New Currency?' May 09

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