Pay attention!

Columns - Viewpoint

Today’s consumer has a short attention span. Take that into consideration regarding your marketing message.

October 13, 2015


Kelli Rodda


I often joke about my ridiculously short attention span. And it’s something that plagued me long before the so-called digital age. When I saw the Pixar movie Up!, I knew I’d found my soulmate in the character Dug, the dog who stops talking mid-stream and yells, “Squirrel!” (Refresh your memory here:

Research indicates that a goldfish has a longer attention span than the average human. According to a study by Microsoft, the average human attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds. It dropped to 8 seconds in 2013. The average attention span of a goldfish: 9 seconds. How do we get the consumer to hear the value message of plants in such a short time? According to Microsoft’s research, “it’s not as bad as you think.” Whew! Here are some takeaways from the research.

  • Marketers “must go beyond basic demographic segmentation because digital lifestyles and behaviors are more tied to attention levels than demographics are.”
  • Overall, digital lifestyles deplete the ability to remain focused on a single task, particularly in non-digital environments. But, all is not lost. Connected consumers are becoming better at doing more with less via shorter bursts of high attention and more efficient encoding to memory.
  • Multi-screening trains consumers to be less effective at filtering out distractions — they are increasingly hungry for something new. This means more opportunities to hijack attention but also that brands need to work harder to maintain it.

Marketers must address all three types of attention, according to the research.

Sustained: Tech adoption, social media usage, and multi-screening behaviors mean consumers are getting worse at paying attention for extended periods of time, but they’re able to do more with less through higher bursts of attention and more efficient encoding to memory. Be clear, personal, relevant and (quickly) get to the point.

Selective: Filtering out distractions isn’t related to tech or social media usage or media consumption, but it declines with more multi-screening. Brands need to hold consumers attention to compete with other stimuli, but there’s also potential to grab attention away from other interests. Defy expectations, leverage rich media and movement to grab attention.

Alternating: Digital lifestyles improve the ability to switch between tasks, but only to a certain point, when consumers can get overwhelmed. Embed calls to action, be interactive, use sequential messaging, and build cohesive, immersive experiences across screens.

Even if you have to take it in a few seconds at a time, read the rest of the research here:

See more coverage on marketing beginning on page 37 and find out how some of the big plant brands connect to the consumer.