We live in a world of fragmented attention, fleeting micro-moments shared across pieces of different sized glass. Think about the first 10 minutes of your morning. Do you turn on the TV? Ask Alexa for the weather as you open your phone? How many apps do you open? How many emails do you check? How many brands have targeted you? And how many do you remember?
Gone are the days when brands and marketers could create a TV commercial or ad with the expectation of full audience attention—because no one watches TV with full attention. We’re watching TV while browsing on our phones and talking to a spouse or friend. We’re skipping ads, using ad-blockers and fast-forwarding through the moments when attention is wanted most. In this busy media landscape, how do brands and marketers successfully convey their message when their audience is distracted?
The extinction of undivided attention requires a new paradigm on how we approach communicating with our customers. While attention is more fragmented than ever, our ability to reach an intended audience with the right message in the right moment has grown exponentially. The average person checks their phone 80 times a day, and because people are interacting with different formats of media in almost every free moment, we now have hundreds of opportunities throughout the day to reach an audience with a message of value in the right contextual moment. However, brands need to approach this challenge differently if they are going to cut through all the noise, remain respected and make a business impact.
Brands need to be in all places to catch those fleeting moments of attention—even partially—of their consumers. Creating native content that supports all formats leads to an opportunity to reach your audience when they are ready to listen. If they’re on Twitter, you need to be on Twitter. If they’re on Instagram, you need to be on Instagram. Facebook, YouTube, TV and whatever new platform—it’s about being there during that three-minute wait for the subway or during the commercial break of a favorite TV show, except on Facebook because they decided to check their phone.
Serve, don’t control
Brands can no longer control their audience; they need to serve their audience where they are, with what they want, when they want it. If you are a brand manufacturing and selling a product exclusively on your website, worried about cannibalizing your sales by also selling on Amazon, you must reconcile that customers don’t care that you make more margin on your site. If a customer is looking for your product on Amazon, they have made a choice to shop on Amazon, whether that’s for its convenience, because they are a Prime member or because they needed batteries, a spatula and your product. The reason doesn’t matter. If they’re looking for your product but you’re not there, they’re going to buy the next best thing: the product that was ready to serve them in their moment of need. As a brand, you have a responsibility to serve your customer on whatever platform they’re on, whether that’s purchasing or viewing.
Vimeo recently launched a publish-to-social feature that enables its creative community to publish their videos to multiple platforms including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter with the push of a button. While it may seem counterintuitive for a video platform to enable a feature like this, creators of video content have a responsibility to reach their audience where they are, not where they want them to be. Vimeo exists to serve its community of creators, and if it doesn’t help them reach their audience wherever they may be, then it would no longer be serving its community. Serve, don’t control.
Make engagement simple
In recognizing that people are engaging with your brand in new ways and new formats in moments of competing for attention, brands need to ensure that it is easy for users to take action. If you are reaching someone on a mobile device, they are not going to spend time filling out multiple forms or going through multiple windows. You need to create opportunities for quick interactions that signal intent, like one-click opt-ins or feedback mechanisms. Not every interaction has to convert—nor can it—however, it’s through these moments of micro-engagement that customers begin to patch your message together.
Every marketer has heard that old adage that it takes exposing your message to someone five times for recall. However, in this age of fragmented attention, has that five become 10 or maybe 15 times? Brands need to ensure that everything from your voice, communications, design and style match, even across platforms with highly variable levels of creative and message control, from Instagram to Amazon. With limited time, your audience needs all the ways in which they see you to line up.
While our attention spans have shortened and the number of devices fighting for that attention has increased, brands also have an unprecedented opportunity to speak to individuals in ways as unique as the needs they serve. How and in what ways you speak to your audience must adapt to platforms and context people are interacting with your brand. The brands that master this and are there to offer value, how and when their audience is ready, are the ones that will break through the distraction.