The Effect of Short Attention Spans on Marketing Efforts

Squirrel chasing acorn, short attention span

I had an interesting conversation recently that got me to thinking about attention spans and marketing. I read an article about how pop music intros have dramatically decreased. The theory is that millennials don’t have the attention span to listen to a thirty-second intro—they want to hear the lyrics right away. I mentioned that to my 14-year-old music-obsessed daughter, and she agreed. She couldn’t imagine listening to a musical introduction for thirty seconds—she would skip to a new song. Short attention spans are not affecting just music, either. The NBA is considering rules to shorten the length of games due to decreasing attention spans, too.

This is definitely a behavior marketers need to watch. While decreasing attention spans will affect all areas of marketing, several critical vehicles should be top of mind.

Designing with Attention Spans in Mind

Websites: First, marketers need to be aware of site loading times. Even a one-second delay in load time can be problematic—research shows that a one-second delay can lead to a seven percent conversion loss. Additionally, 40% of web users will abandon a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Search-engine giant Google recognizes this trend too—site speed is one of its ranking factors. Second, attention span concerns should also impact site design. Messaging needs to be smart and to the point. Long copy blocks or an excessive amount of copy is a turn-off. Instead, lead with your benefits, utilize interesting visuals and graphics to illustrate your story and save a deeper dive into your product for downloads such as white papers, case studies and eBooks.

Marketing videos: Get to the point! Long intros are not going to work anymore. Communication professionals would be better served to do a series of short videos that get to the point quickly and use visuals/charts/graphs to illustrate the selling points.

PowerPoints: It’s time to rethink your presentation. A long intro about you and your company, lots of product features, wordy slides filled with too many points and not enough visuals all add up to a failed presentation. In today’s digital world, consider an electronic presentation that allows you to easily jump to relevant sections and allows the prospect to lead the discussion. The electronic version allows for additional information as needed, while eliminating sections that don’t interest your customer.

Still doubt the shortening attention span? Spend some time observing your own media consumption. Do you abandon web pages based on load time and information presentation? Watch popular movies and TV shows to see how they handle scenes. You might be surprised to note how seldom they hold a scene for very long, instead cutting from person and subject very quickly. Smart marketers will rethink their marketing tools by keeping today's short attention spans top of mind.

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