One powerful statistic made me rethink the way we, as marketers, approach gaining our audience’s attention.
What you would read in the New York Times in one week is the amount of information somebody would have experienced in their entire life 100 years ago.
Let that sink in.
This made me think more than ever the role that the brain plays in how brands communicate with audiences and which of those brands gain attention. Marketing theory has many different funnels and models that focus on how we move our audience from X to Y but not one that fully considers the barriers to gaining attention.
As the New York Times example points out, the problem a new model must address is the age of information overload. We are all bombarded with information. For the brain information goes well beyond what you read and is everything you see, everything that you smell, feel etc. All the senses require attention from the brain, everything you experience. Due to this the brain has mechanisms to protect us from that overload; the brain filters out certain bits of information e.g., you don’t constantly feel the clothes on your body. This is called selective filtering.
In the context of Marketing and Advertising let’s imagine walking down a street. You will filter out the shops, the people, the bus shelters and the world around you. Anything your brain does not deem to be important is lost. This is where selective attention comes in; summarizing things you attune to. Ultimately, what’s important earns attention. In a famous study conducted by Simons and Chabris they demonstrated this by asking participants to watch a basketball game and count the number of times the ball is thrown. 50% of participants didn’t notice a girl in a Gorilla suit walking through the players midway through the game.
Enter value tagging – putting those things you attune to in order of importance to survive and thrive. There are two paths of the brain that this relates to – logical element (survive), and the warmer element, aspirations, people I love etc.(thrive). The more we see information as irrelevant to either our human desire to survive or thrive the less likely we will be to attune to that information.
Have we as marketers lost this idea?
I have seen much of late about the importance of digital due to the covid induced increase of people being on their phones. Many marketers are guilty of jumping to be where our audience is. I argue this is the wrong approach. Creativity is more important than ever – not just being in the same space.
My point was perfectly illustrated with Superbowl advertising this past weekend. ‘Indeed’ and ‘Guaranteed rate’ both used the same stock footage in their ads which goes to show brands do think it is more important to be where their audience is rather than investing their budget on creativity and actually resonating with their audience. The price of a 30-second spot in the 2021 Superbowl is $5,500,000, yes this budget will get you guaranteed reach but the impact of this will be lost if no ‘value tag’ is formed within the brains of your audience.
The question we should actually be asking our clients and our agencies is how we move from being selectively filtered out by our audience to ensuring they are value tagging our brands. That is what your strategy should focus on. This is the funnel that matters. Be in their lives less, but when you are there add value not noise.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Emma Gordon is Planner/Strategist at Halo
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