In marketing there are two ways to get the attention of potential customers. We can either buy it, or we can earn it. When we buy attention, we interrupt. When we earn attention, we attract.
Let me elaborate.
With traditional advertising we place ads that are designed to interrupt the attention that our potential customers were previously directing at something or someone else. That pop-up ad or adblock right in the middle of the article you are trying to read – it’s trying to interrupt the attention you are paying to the article. That global insurance company’s logo on the football field – it’s trying to interrupt the attention you are paying to the game. That radio spot you’re trying to turn down right now – it’s trying to interrupt the attention you are paying to those songs you love.
Have you ever been at a bar or a party, having a conversation with someone, maybe a dear friend you haven’t seen in years, or maybe someone you’ve just met and with whom you seem to just click. You’re having a great discussion, sharing quality time and it seems like there’s no one else in the room, just you and your friend or friend in the making.
Well advertising is like the stranger that walks up to the person you’re talking with, sits down on her lap, and says “Hey – what are you doing talking to this jerk? Look at me, I’m the one you should be paying attention to. Give me all your attention because look, I’m right here in your face.”
What’s more the stranger says, “If you don’t give me your attention then I’m going to keep coming back every few minutes, louder and even more in your face until you do. And then guess what, if you decide to leave this party, I’m going to follow you around anyway because I’ve got a secret strategy called ‘remarketing’. And if you decide to stop going out don’t worry because I’ve got means and ways of following you wherever you go. In your home, on the roads, on your screens… I am going to hound you forever and ever and everrrrrrr!” Is it any wonder our reaction to ads and the companies behind them is annoyance? To paraphrase an often used quote, “If ads were a person we’d want to punch them in the face!”
Similarly, when it comes to marketing we can either be the stranger crashing the party. Or we can earn the right to be the life of the party. To become the thing others are directing their attention to.
And thankfully, the last few years have seen content marketing (a form of inbound marketing) finally get the acknowledgement and attention it deserves. Most marketers are finally realising that hijacking everyone’s attention is nowhere near as good for our brand as being the brand customers actually want to engage with.