Why your customers aren't paying attention

Why your customers aren't paying attention

Let me guess. You’re probably doing a couple of other things while you’re reading this, right?

Uh, hello? Are you listening?

Marketing’s first and biggest challenge is getting the attention of potential customers. These days that job is harder than ever, because people are paying less attention than ever. They’re doing other things– consuming other media– at the same time.

100 million adult Internet users in the US watched TV while they were online last year, according to a new report. Nearly 90 million listened to the radio while online, and more than 50 million browsed magazines while browsing the Web.

“Media multitasking… has a profound impact on (our) ability to absorb and remember content and advertising messages,” says Debra Aho Williamson of eMarketer, author of the report.

Gee, no kidding?

Look at your own life. Chances are, you wake up to a clock radio. Music plays while you check your voice mail. You snap on the TV while you read your email and return a few phone calls. An IM from a colleague arrives with an update about this morning’s meeting. You drive to work listening to music, talking on the phone, maybe scanning the printout of the presentation you’re making today. Sound familiar?

The bad news is, every other consumer is doing basically the same thing. All this multimedia multitasking, according to the report, has turned our “normal” 24-hour day into a staggering 43-hour day, crammed with more than 16 hours of distraction — I mean interaction — with media and technology. We’re consuming more media than ever, and we’re not dropping any. We’re simultaneously juggling more and more.

This frantic pace can be exhausting, but pretty addictive, too. It can feel like a rocket ship. It can also delude us into thinking we’re accomplishing more. But because we’re only half paying attention, we often do our work in a sloppy, slapdash manner, and will have to re-do a lot of it later. But we don’t think about that. We figure hey, it’s good enough. So we pass it along and get busy with the next thing. Or maybe we click on that ad. Or shuffle to the next tune on our iPod.

“Assume that attention waxes and wanes during media usage,” Williamson laments, “and that full engagement is no longer a realistic expectation.”

But if we can no longer expect anyone’s complete attention, how will we ever find a way to get our marketing messages across?

I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I’d love to hear your opinion.

  1. Donald Neal McKayDonald Neal McKay04-24-2007

    We get the message across in such a way as to burst through the consumer’s ennui, and to do that, we emulate a chef: we add spices when and where needed.

    We can do this with clever headline and copy writing accompanied by arresting graphics and media presentation. Let it not be forgotten that we in the advertising and promotion business are first and foremost show people to the marketplace, and the consumer is our seated audience. It is up to us to give the consumers something worth the price of admission.

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