May I have your attention Pu-leeeze! 

Megaphone stockI think we can pretty much all agree that most everyone, be it on the job or in our personal lives, is  stretched thin on time. And this crunch for time has shortened our attention spans and concentration levels to the point that we’re lucky if we even remember some bits and pieces of phone conversations, face-to-face discussions, emails, etc., let alone those marketing messages that other companies put out in the marketplace in hopes we’ll act on them. Who has time for them?

With that scenario playing itself out in most everyone’s lives, marketers have a hard nut to crack when it comes to creating marketing messaging that sticks in order to counterbalance people’s shrinking attention span. Every marketer faces this reality daily. As most of us have heard, the average attention span does not exceed eight seconds (ten years ago it was 12 seconds). Comparatively, the attention span of the average goldfish is nine seconds. Capturing attention within eight seconds is a formidable challenge. As marketers, we have enough trouble with summarizing a message into a small packaging label, a web banner, a half page magazine ad, an outdoor board, or other media channels where the time or space allows for only something along the lines of a “quick bite.” Remember when the 60-second TV commercial was the norm? Then it went to 30 seconds and now we’re seeing more and more 15’s. And Vine built a platform around 6-second video posts and YouTube incorporated a “skip ad” option on their commercial videos after five seconds. Any more than that, and viewers lose interest and get really ticked off .

Oh, and let’s not forget about how the shrinking attention span has also led to people fidgeting between multiple screens (their TVs, computers, smartphones and tablets) at a rate of up to 21 times per hour, according to a recent study. Guess the average minutes a day that a person spends on their smartphone? 147 minutes. Now compare that to just under 120 minutes per day watching TV.  Boy, we are distracted!

Growing evidence blames Internet, TV and computer games for creating shorter attention spans. Bombarded daily with mind-boggling amounts of things to read, watch and respond to, most of us have real difficulty paying attention on one subject for longer than a couple of seconds. How to fight against this rapidly decreasing attention span of an average consumer? How do you market to a group of people who don’t have enough time to listen to everything you have to say? It’s hard, and it’s getting harder to get and keep anyone’s attention.

Well, some marketers are trying to get people’s attention by going where more people seem to be…on social media, the “Land Of A Million Tweets, Comments And Posts” that repopulates itself every few days, or hours…or even minutes. And then there’s special offers, sales, email blasts and just about anything else that has a slight chance of possibly working.  In doing so, I’d argue that for many companies, they’re not breaking through the clutter but instead adding to it.

It’s more important than ever to hold the attention of customers and prospects quickly and interactively in ways that weren’t possible or necessary in years past. So here are 5 messaging tips that will go a long way to having your audience stay tuned rather than drift away:

  • Simplify. Less is more. Don’t just push out content or tweets or posts like something coming off an assembly line. Have something meaningful to say and make sure that it’s different than what others are saying. Otherwise it’s not a voice people want to listen to but just white noise.
  • Don’t waste their time. Unless you want visitors to click the “back” button and switch to one of your competitors, don’t make them wait for the information they need. Include key information up front and begin with the end in mind. It’s critical that your message be on-point, easy to understand and interesting from the audience’s perspective and do it in 10-15 seconds. Which will earn you more time…if you’ve done it right.
  • Be consistent. Be around. Patience is absolutely necessary because it takes time and effort to get the audience’s attention, while consistency is essential to keep it. Wherever your messaging is appearing, online or offline, make sure your audience gets information that they can use and make sure that there’s a cadence and schedule in place for this messaging. Being present for a while and then disappearing for a while does not keep your audience interested.
  • Get Emotional. Prospects are prospects whether you’re trying to market bars of soap for their homes or selling soap dispensers on the B2B side. Market research has shown that most people buy on emotion first and intellect afterwards. Give them content that makes them feel something and they’ll stay tuned in.
  • Variety is the spice of life. Change things up. Don’t keep going out with the same ad or mailing the same brochure, etc., Once people think they’ve seen it, they’re off somewhere else. In our own lives, we don’t keep rereading the same thing so why for a moment do we think that if you keep rerunning the same material over and over again to your audience, things will get better. I’m here to tell you …it won’t. Better to change things before people get bored.

Now, at a time when attention spans are shorter and less focused than ever, you need to be more focused on making sure your marketing messaging doesn’t fall on deaf ears.  There is too much noise because too many people want to be noticed without having to say anything worth hearing. The genuine voice sounds different and therefore it can be more easily discerned.  The problem is, because of so much noise, people are hardly listening any more – expecting to hear nothing of worth anyway. Make every effort to be the voice that gets heard.


Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.

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