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How to Crack Consumer Code in the Attention Economy

As Malcolm Gladwell stated in his book, it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. To bring you up to speed on digital communication that can crack consumer code, in this article, we will discuss how to compete in today's attention economy.

The competition for people’s attention has never been more fierce. However, the main challenge of the attention economy is: the demand for consumer attention is rapidly increasing while the supply of consumer attention remains the same; scientifically, it is not proven that our attention capacity is expanding.

On one hand, marketers and content creators are taking advantage of consumers’ obsession with their mobile devices, while on the other, they're overwhelmed by thoughts of how content displays across all of these platforms and devices. On top of juggling these arduous tasks, they must ensure everything they do is captivating as otherwise, it becomes impossible to compete in today's attention economy.    

The good news is, while we can’t control these endless factors which affect an individual’s attention capacity, there are still some proven tactics to harness and maximize consumer attention. Let’s have a glance at some of them!

Telling a Compelling Story with a Ladder of Engagement Principal

In his book titled Sapiens, Yuval Harari states: “Gossip played an important role in the development of Sapiens as the dominant species on Earth.”  He argues that the new linguistic skills that Homo Sapiens acquired about 70,000 years ago allowed them to gossip for hours on end. According to the book, these linguistic set of skills resulted in the dissemination of reliable information from one person to another. Information on who could be trusted meant smaller bands could expand into larger ones, and larger numbers of strangers could co-operate successfully by believing in common myths. When we fast forward 70,000 years, what this finding translates to for marketers is their power of compelling storytelling.

Harnessing that power, however, is not an easy task because the job doesn't end when that mission has been accomplished. So as not to have your compelling story end up as another flash in the pan, one of the recommended marketing principals is a ladder of engagement. According to Thales Teixeira, Harvard Business School professor: “People are not willing to watch or consume a 30-second ad if they have no connection with the brand.“  To that end, sequential storytelling methods would be a better idea to test the water as well as build engagement deliberately.

Another important strategy for storytelling is to make sure your story resonates with your audience’s own. Today’s digital social savvy audience, which has expanded beyond only the millennials, are also marketers of their own personal brand. This shift means that marketers are now marketing to marketers in a way. Therefore, it is critical for consumers to associate brands’ stories with their "own brand" story, aka their own social status. That feeling of connection is what makes people share brands’ content with their social networks, as it reinforces their identity.  

Wanted: Data-Savvy Marketers

While following the ladder of engagement method, marketers definitely can’t afford to take a “spray and pray” approach, meaning they need to gauge the effectiveness of every single marketing dollar instead of just going with their “gut instincts”. In 2018 and beyond, employing data-savvy marketers will be the vantage point that will make or break it for companies. To be prepared, experts encourage organizations to figure out what their marketing team already knows and what they need to learn. According to research from Econsultancy, in partnership with Google, across all types of organizations, 75% of marketers agree that a lack of education on data analysis and analytics is the biggest barrier to making more key business decisions based on data insights.

After making sure that everyone on the team is a data-savvy marketer, Google and Econsultancy suggest: “Start by identifying data sources you need to help answer questions related to achieving top business goals. Then, outline ways to integrate a variety of sources to help you gain a more holistic understanding of your audience. If your company does not own that data, find ways to connect the dots via data access through APIs, purchased lists, or partnerships.”  From there, it boils down to utilizing attribution to evaluate how channels and content work together in order to allocate the budget.

Behind Every B, There Is a C

As a B2B marketer, making headway on storytelling platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram can be more challenging as compared to their B2C counterparts. Just like any other platform, it takes planning, strategy, and a lot of experimentation. Today’s extensive technology stack provides many solutions, such as Naritiv, to make that transition smoother for marketers by connecting advertisers and influencers for marketers who would like to test the waters.

Now that you’ve got your arsenal of platforms, you know the problem your organization is solving and who you want to attract the most. From here, all you need is to fine-tune your digital communication. IBM and GE are often demonstrated as great case studies for when it comes to being a great storyteller in the B2B environment. With their enticing digital communication strategy, they do not focus on the business process since their target is to resonate with the human touch, and understand there is a C behind every B.  

One of the successful tactics in the B2B market to grab full attention and convert it to an action is intent-based marketing as opposed to crafting a message based on demographics. Given we now have, on average, four generations working side by side in an organization, making informed marketing decisions based on behavioral data is far more rewarding.

The Mobile-First World

Google recently partnered with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to understand the impact of mobile on B2B customers and organizations. During the study, they noticed that a large share of revenue is mobile-driven or influenced. This finding hasn’t reached the tipping point yet! In fact, mobile usage per B2B worker is expected to increase from two hours a day to three by 2020, driven by millennials, Gen Z, and the increasing use of smartphones by older workers.

2015 was a turning point for mobile shopping and in 2017, the trend truly took off. Where will this upward track be in 2018? Here’s a hint: perfectionism. Now that we have a mature mobile technology and larger screen real estate, brands are expected to excel at their mobile-first experience. To be more specific, online retailers who don’t deliver a responsive and customized mobile design are really going to lose out in 2018.

With that in mind, if I circle back to the attention economy, mobile has a unique power besides its obvious benefits of convenience, accessibility, and practicality. Being not only a personal belonging but also a doorway to a vast world makes it a very unique channel in terms of building a one-to-one relationship. However, the game of capturing attention is even tougher in this arena as your audience scrolls endlessly through a social media newsfeed or a list of Google search results. Once you have managed to capture their attention, you have a chance to either make a splash or mar your business as you have a pretty narrow window in which to further engage with them. From a clean and aesthetic layout to an easy-to-navigate menu, every aspect of your prospect's mobile experience impacts your brand's identity and once again, on a personal level, the level of association between that brand identity and their own is prominent to building a long-lasting relationship.

My POV

At the end of the day, I really do not think consumers are not becoming loyal to brands, as they are becoming loyal to the experience that a brand provides them. Some brands compromise the quality of a service or a product, and as a result lose their current customers forever. When that happens, the consequence is painful as the studies demonstrate it is 7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. Securing existing customers doesn’t come through utilizing the same digital communication tactics that previously worked. In fact, there is a saying that goes: “If it worked yesterday, it probably won’t work tomorrow.”

Today, the digital content world is floating on daunting yet abundant waters. In the advent of technology, it may be a great time to be a digital content marketer but it is hard to say the same for garnering attention from a target audience. By waiting until their marketing campaign is perfect for running, they will unfortunately never find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. What capturing attention really takes is lots of experiments based on data and time but once the consumer code is cracked, the end results are rewarding. Just like in many other areas of life, marketers aren’t quite so patient as to wait for the big return but in fact, the majority of growth happens at the very end.

To back up my point, a social experiment demonstrated that when asked, the majority of subjects preferred to be given $1,000,000 right away instead of receiving a penny that doubles in value for 31 days. However, when you do the math, the doubling penny actually ends up being $10.7 million dollars. At the end of the day, big things are built up by small things done patiently. Do you recall that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything? With every experiment yielding a different result, brands will gain stronger and richer ideas to determine which direction to steer their ship on these daunting yet abundant waters.

Venus Tamturk

Venus Tamturk

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.