It seems that the human attention span has shrunk by 35% since 2000. From 12 seconds to just under 8 seconds. We are also reminded that even goldfish can focus on something longer than we can. We hear this a lot.
Is this true? That are we more restless than even goldfish?
Well, just when we need them, it seems that the jury is out. We don’t know what the duration is, how attention was measured, is the decrease true of all tasks, does it apply to all cultures, etc. How convenient!
Our attention is more fragmented than ever. And it’s only getting worse!
But we do agree for a fact, that we have never had so much stimulus coming at us from all directions, all at once. We still have the same 24 hours in a day and way too much more information to process than ever before.
Our attention spans have decreased significantly over the years. We are a fragmented audience. More difficult to reach, and even more difficult to get attention from. And this will only get worse.
Marketing is a challenge in a fragmented environment
In this attention deficit environment, marketers and brands struggle to reach consumers with core messages. They seek our vanishing attention in new ways. Expensive celebrity endorsements. The short-lived sugar rush of higher and higher media spending. Social media. Content. The next new shiny marketing tool, whatever that might be.
The Saviour: Responsible Marketing. Brand Purpose.
In this thirst for brand attention, marketers are now excitedly charging into battle riding on a new horse. Brand Purpose. Responsible Marketing.
We all agree that a business should be sustainable and responsible in the way it operates? Our environment and communities have given up too much for too long. And businesses should work hard to right the balance and above all, do no (more) harm.
But should it be a brand’s marketing that leads that effort? Or should it be the way the business operates? Can it be both?
Brand Purpose as clutter breaker?
Over the past few years, we have seen talented marketers charging up the hill of Brand Purpose. The industry, cheered on by #humbled #blessed LinkedIn posts, is consuming a heady concoction of Sustainable Business, Responsible Marketing, and Brand Purpose. Without spending too much time on figuring out the difference.
Brand Purpose is fast becoming the way to stand out amongst the clutter, and latch on to fragments of consumer attention. It works for market leaders and big spenders for a little while. Until everyone catches up and drags consumer marketing back into the sea of sameness. Buying attention is not new. We have seen it in the early days of mega celebrity endorsements. Until every brand has an endorser. Sea of sameness, again.
Also read: Navigating the perfect marketing storm in 2023
What do consumers feel about Brand Purpose?
Believe it or not, consumers have to work hard at holding down a job that pays the bills. They need to drop kids to school, do the dishes, keep the peace while being the meat in the sandwich between their parents and their kids. They need to pay the mortgage, save up for college. Advance in life in their own meaningful way. And when they look at a laundry detergent the “brand purpose” they first have in mind is that it does a damn good job of getting clothes clean without a fuss. Their fragmented attention does not have the bandwidth to absorb more than that!
But doesn’t research show that consumers will buy Responsible Brands with Purpose?
Yes, if you asked me to sign a petition with no monetary consequence, I would. Until you asked me to vote with my wallet. Then I would think really hard before actually acting in line with my benevolent thoughts. Consumers are the same. They will say what is socially right to say.
A staggering majority of consumers will say the right thing in research to do with Sustainability or Brand Purpose. Or anything that sounds right, for that matter. And very few will act on what they said. By a factor of 10!