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Practical steps to overcome consumer attention deficit

Grabbing the attention of passing eyeballs and keeping them on your product is becoming an ever-more challenging proposition, especially in Asia. The results of a number of studies show that the average attention span of a person in the year 2000 was 12 seconds. In 2015 this already-low figure had fallen even further, to 8.25 seconds.

These numbers coincide with what I call the ‘Internet big bang’, which began 16 years ago and shows no signs of slowing down. In Asia today, we find ourselves in a world where everyone is glued to their mobile devices. As with everything, this is both good and bad. For marketers, this constantly plugged-in situation is great and incredibly frustrating at the same time. In this golden age of information, almost any content you want can be accessed in a matter of seconds, everyone is connected to everyone else 24/7 via social media, traditional OOH posters are turning into digital screens, billboards are becoming interactive, and information is moving faster and faster. This is the ‘great’ part.

Time is ticking
The frustrating part is that everyone is so connected that they don’t know where to look anymore. We are becoming more and more distracted, and with all this ‘digital noise’ it is becoming increasingly challenging to hold people’s attention for a long enough time to form a connection with them.

Consumers now have the power to hit ‘stop’ or ‘pause’, or switch to another channel anytime they feel the slightest bit of disinterest in what they’re seeing. Audiences not only need a strong ‘pull factor’ to participate, they also seek instant gratification – if one campaign doesn’t give it to them, they can just go somewhere else.

Mobile marketing was first seen as the holy grail of customer engagement, but we’re not there yet – finding and downloading mobile apps can be a cumbersome and time-consuming process – frustrating for both sides of the equation. So here we are, in a world where consumers can switch off in the blink of an eye; a world where advertisers and marketers need to rethink their methods of engagement to connect with an impatient and attention-deficit audience.

Finding the way forward
Despite this daunting scenario, it is still possible to connect with people. Indeed, people crave connection more than ever. Here’s what to do:
1. Make your message worth their time
People today are better than ever at identifying what they want or don’t want to engage with. Consumers are smart, decisive and very savvy and can spot a ‘snake oil’ sales trick from miles away. But people also have an innate need to learn and to be taught, and if your campaign has something interesting to tell them, or some wisdom to impart, then people will switch on and stay engaged. Teach them something.

2. Target your delivery method properly
When creating video marketing, first consider how you’ll deliver your content and on what device it’s meant to be seen – this is so important. If it’s meant to be seen on social media, short is best, like under a minute. If you’re aiming for image-rich sites like Instagram or Vine, you’ll need to be even shorter – 15 seconds or less. YouTube or Vimeo are better for longer-form, higher production value videos. The choice is yours!

3. Make your content superb
Instead of looking at your campaign content as a means to an end, i.e. something designed to sell something else, change your perspective. Look at content as a ‘product’ in and of itself – a product that is designed to delight, inspire, challenge or educate an audience. If done well, these products should stand on their own merits and create the right connections.

4. Never forget your audience
If you can’t beat them, join them. Face it, it’s not possible to hold anyone’s attention for long periods of time. If you’re trying to do that, chances are you’re wasting time and money. If, however, you’re certain that you have a captive audience, then by all means employ a more traditional persuasive advertising strategy.

Generally though, you’re going to be speaking to multi-screening social media butterflies who will look in your direction for a few short seconds – after that they’ll either be multitasking or watching a rival brand’s advertising. In this case, you need to ‘go hard or go home’ – hit them with the entertaining or emotional card right away, keep the energy high and keep it short and sweet.

Times have changed, and you need to change with them. The current is moving fast and if you’re not swimming fast enough you’ll get left behind. Get going!

A veteran with 20 years of experience in the creative scene, Jed Mok uses big-picture thinking, storytelling, insights, criteria development tools and synthesis in the development and conceptualising of brand experiences. In 2013, he became part of the leadership of the Pico Creative Lab – a consolidation of creative services of Pico Singapore, taking the lead in Creative & Strategy Planning. For the newly created division, he devised marketing strategies and developed made-to-measure creative content for client’s brand experience.