Sales and Marketing Sections

Get Their Attention, and You Needn’t Worry About Attention Span

The Name of the Game

By Michelle Abdow

The team at Market Mentors.

The team at Market Mentors.

According to a 2015 study conducted by Microsoft Corp. and reported by Time magazine, most Americans’ brains are hardwired with an eight-second attention span.

If this is true, then your company’s marketing message is more likely to resonate (or at least be retained by) goldfish, who can focus longer: nine seconds. In the information blur last year, you may have missed another study, this one conducted by the research firm Zenith, which found that, in 2016, people consumed, on average, 456.1 minutes of media each day. With these findings, how, then, can a company possibly effectively communicate with an audience that doesn’t have capability to process or — worse — retain the message?

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once declared the idea of an attention span a misnomer, professing, “people have an infinite attention span if you are entertaining them.” Fellow comic Steve Martin offered a similar sentiment: “be so good they can’t ignore you.” While advertising is no laughing matter, judging by the success of both men, there has to be some truth to their declarations that can be parlayed into effective messaging. Capture someone’s attention, and you need not worry about their attention span.

Say It Quickly, Say It Well

It’s been established that effective messaging needs to capture the attention of your desired audience. To accomplish this, the message itself must be memorable, relevant, and authentic. More than that, it must be inextricably linked to your company and brand so the messaging can’t mistakenly be attributed to a competitor.

Some might be tempted to jam-pack their advertisement with imagery and text to ‘make the most’ of the opportunity. A word to the wise: putting 10 pounds into a five-pound sack won’t work; customers will be apt to skim right over it — the opposite of your desired result.

Finding the right mix of messaging (print, digital, or otherwise) for the right price and in the right placements is perhaps the most challenging aspect of marketing or advertising communications, and it shouldn’t be left to chance.”

At its very core, advertising is easy: with compelling imagery, catchy headlines or taglines, a strategically placed logo, and a clear call to action, the advertisement should compel viewers to do just that: act. Right? Consider Super Bowl commercials. Perhaps you’re one of the roughly 110 million people who watch the game each year and among the working adults who congregate around the water cooler the following day to compare, contrast, and, more likely, rank the commercials. Why are some spots successful, running throughout the year, while others disappear as quickly as they first appeared during the game?

What You Say Is As Critical as Where You Say It

A commercial for sugary cereal with a prize in the box is likely to resonate more with the Saturday-morning cartoon-watching crowd than late-night talk-show viewers. A print advertisement for skateboards is unlikely to reach its intended audience if it is placed in Forbes or BusinessWest.

Therefore, it’s important to consider where your customers are consuming media so your messaging can be appropriately placed and leveraged. While you may not see your own advertisement, wouldn’t you prefer it that way if it means your potential customers are seeing it instead?

Mixing Things Up

Most businesses have a set dollar amount allocated for promotional activities. How can you find the right combination of messaging strategies to garner the best results? After all, isn’t that the desired result of promotions, to garner results, preferably the measurable variety — cash-register rings, new-client attainments, sales growth over time, competitor acquisitions, and the like?

Finding the right mix of messaging (print, digital, or otherwise) for the right price and in the right placements is perhaps the most challenging aspect of marketing or advertising communications, and it shouldn’t be left to chance.

While you may have relied on word of mouth to initially launch your business, your company will not remain top of mind if messaging is not consistently delivered. The desire should be to move customers through a sales funnel, advancing their awareness to interest, interest to evaluation, evaluation to decision, decision to purchase, and, if you’re lucky, repeat purchases.

Consistent messaging is the only way to accomplish this. One impactful advertisement will simply make your customer aware of your existence, if they notice your ad at all.

Don’t Just Take My Word for It

While Henry Ford did not invent the automobile, he did shift people’s perception about owning them. Through efficient means of production and effective messaging, consumers began to understand, desire, and ultimately purchase his Model Ts, more than 15 million of them and over the course of 20 years. How? Ford not only understood the importance of advertising, he understood how to adapt messaging to evolving customer wants and needs and, moreover, a shifting media landscape.

The takeaway? “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” Do this in your advertising, in what you say, how you say it, and where you say it, and your messaging will be memorable.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?


Michelle Abdow is President of Market Mentors; a full service marketing, advertising and public relations firm headquartered in West Springfield; 413-787-1133