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a blog by Chris Barrow

Attention and the business we are really in.

Archery target with an arrow stuck accurately in the center ring bullseye
In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else : a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes.What information consumes is rather obvious : it consumes the attention of its recipients.Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attentionHerbert Simon 1971 (Nobel Prize laureate)

It has become something of a joke with my friends that I seem to post to Facebook most working days that I’m visiting a practice and talking about “marketing”.

The joke stems from an old CB story about a canny dentist who invited me to stay over at his home before a practice visit and, at 23:30, after a long dinner discussing his business challenges and a few too many glasses of red wine asked:

“So Chris, tell me all about marketing.”

The subject required rather more time and intellect than I had available by that stage in the evening and so my gracious host had to wait for the morning.

Recently, I’ve been researching just how difficult it is to get the attention mentioned in the above prophetic quotation from Herbert Simon, one of the most influential social scientists of the 20th Century.

Let me share with you some facts about attention that I have recently unearthed as preparation for a facilitation with a group of top achievers who want to know “all about marketing Chris”:

  1. there are 3 x more people alive today than when I was born in 1953

  2. in the next 10 years we will welcome a further billion people

So no shortage of potential patients/clients then, provided we are prepared to take a global perspective (and you and I can).

The challenge is not in finding people – the real challenge is to get their attention:

Every Year:

  1. 8 million new songs

  2. 2 million new books

  3. 16,000 new films

  4. 30 billion blog posts

  5. 182 billion Tweets

Every Day:

  1. Google handles 35 billion emails

  2. We upload 1.8 billion new photos to The Cloud

  3. We upload 300 hours of video to YouTube every minute

  4. We are incidentally exposed to over 5,000 advertising and brand messages

  5. We are directly targeted (by AI algorithms) with 362 advertising exposures

  6. We take note of 153

  7. We are aware of the relevance of 86

  8. We engage with 12

In short – it would take one average human lifespan to absorb everything that is created in each 24 hour period on the web.


SJ Insights – September 2014 – New Research Sheds Light on Daily Ad Exposures

Overwhelm is an inadequate term to describe this.

The challenge facing every advertiser and marketer is how to break through this information overload and be noticed/heard.

Seth Godin writes that the choices are to:

Shout – just keep buying bigger billboards, spend more money on Super Bowl ads or interrupt our privacy with unsolicited calls, emails, pop ups, links, connections – ultimately – spam us. Advertising is shouting in a crowd of 2 billion people online, all shouting.

Whisper – say something so evocative and timely that we STOP and listen and then queue for more, because we like what you have to say. Marketing is storytelling to a captive audience of followers who are attentive.

Which is why……..

You have to ask yourself whether you are SHOUTING or whispering in your own advertising/marketing strategy?

Here’s another thought from Kevin Kelly’s excellent new book:

The cost of commodities ultimately moves towards a point close to zero over time. The value of experience is rising. Luxury entertainment is increasing 6.5% annually. Spending at bars and restaurants increased 9% in 2015 alone. Concert tickets up 400% from 1981 to 2012. Same 400% for USA healthcare. The cost of weddings has no limit. They are not commodities. They are experiences. We give them our precious, scarce, fully unalloyed attention. That’s where we will spend our money (because they won’t be free) and that’s where we will make our money. We’ll use technology to produce commodities and we’ll make experiences in order to avoid becoming a commodity ourselves.

You and I?

We’re not in the coaching or dental business.

We’re in the experience business.

The experience that we deliver will get us the attention that we crave – good or bad – so it had better be very, very good.

Next time you see me posting “Talking marketing” as I check in on Facebook, I will not be talking about spending money on shouting.

You’ll know that I’m about to interrogate the experience that my hosts are delivering, how we can improve it and make it so share-worthy and remark-able that it gets attention.

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