Marketing to the modern internet consumer

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2nd September 2014, 3 minute read

The shrinking attention spans of ... Sorry, what was I saying?

According to a recent study by, the average adult attention span has dropped drastically over the past decade. In this short period of time, it has plunged from 12 whole minutes to a rather disturbing eight short seconds. For comparison, the study also revealed that the average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. As a result, our shrinking attention spans and concentration levels are causing us to forget vital details. Twenty-five percent of all surveyed teens forget birthdays and anniversaries of close friends and family members, while 7 percent of all adults say they forget their own birthdays from time to time. So, what does this mean for marketing and businesses?

With all the "noise" out there competing for consideration, less is more and if you want your message absorbed by consumers you will need to adapt. It is more important than ever to quickly and interactively engage with your "always on" clients, who expect instant gratification and quick fixes. To assure your message is on point here is what we find most successful:

Keep messages brief

Always make sure every line is of value to the overall message. Focus on what's most important and start with the main messages and then minimize or delete the rest. Limit the number of choices you give to users. This reduces the amount of mental effort, and therefore maximises your mission.

Keep it simple

Messages that are easily understood and compelling to watch tend to work best. Pictures are "worth a thousand words," so keep that in mind when creating content that is both interesting and brief.

Establish trust and value by not over-saturating

With email boxes constantly flooded, it's important for consumers to understand that your brand is one to be trusted and therefore worth at least a glance or mouse click.

Many brands and companies have chosen to uphold the new standard of "short-attention span theatre," but there are also other exceptions. Take French high-fashion luxury designer Chanel, for example. This brand has decided to do the opposite and challenge the more concise standard of storytelling by producing a full 18 minutes of film to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its brand.

For these "aspirational" luxury customers willing to pay more for high-end goods and services, long and slow may be the better way to satisfy their needs, seduced by the brand and a perceived association to wealth and status. But for the more mainstream consumer, we need to grab them quickly, or not at all.

Shorter attention spans are making us work harder to win and keep the attention of consumers. But is that really such a bad thing if we need to choose our words better and communicate more concisely?  I don't think so. But if you don't believe me, ask your goldfish.

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