Catching attention in marketing


Go ahead and try it in your marketing and reap the rewards. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Think through your average work day. From the time you wake up until the moment you lay your head to sleep, how many pieces of unsolicited information get thrust upon you? How many billboards are there on your way to work? How many email and social media ads come across your screen? How many advertisements pop onto the television you watch? As you sit in traffic, how many product merchants try to garner your attention? Then, in your workplace, every colleague, superior, and client reaches out for tasks to get completed.

Listen here. Look over there. Come here. Do this. Buy that. Attention....attention....attention....The steady drumbeat of modern life bombards us with constant amounts of information.

The above reality poses a real problem for advertisers who need to get messages out to different current and prospective buyers. How do they rise above the crowded field? An example involves

Kiva, with its African headquarters in Nairobi, thrives as a peer-to-peer lending website whereby millions of US dollars get lent from around the world at zero percent interest rates. In 2009, dozens of competitors of Kiva emerged based largely off their business model: get generous individuals to lend their money for a few months up to a few years all while earning no interest return as long as the funds go towards helping entrepreneurs.

While Kiva’s model become common, they stood above the rest and survived because they were able to grab the attention of consumers.

But how in the midst of the assault on the senses with so much information load, could Kiva and others rise? Psychologists have long known of two different ways to grab attention. Advertisers have incorporated the techniques into their marketing.

First, humans are particularly keen to notice flashing objects. From waving bright flags to flashing lights, humans evolved to notices flashes that resemble the dangers that a fire could bring.

Second, people will be aware of things that match their goals. Have a young baby at home? Then walking through the streets of Mombasa, your subconscious mind will be drawn to a passing child clothing store because you may need those items. Walking in the wilderness and you are hungry? Your brain will be quick to spot a mango tree out of all the other vegetation.

But interesting more recent research by Brian Anderson, Patryk Laurent, and Steven Yantis give advertisers another third tool in their arsenal. It is now known that people are attracted to items they value. Out of hundreds of images, our brains will immediately recognise a symbol or picture that is associated with something we value.

As an example, if we value a particular political party, then advertisers can show similar shapes with similar colour schemes to grab our attention for their products or services. Same with religious affiliations or sports teams.

Continuing our above example, in 2009, Kiva garnished the endorsement of both Oprah Winfrey and former US President Bill Clinton and the Kiva founders appeared on television alongside the mega-celebrities. Citizens in more than 100 countries saw the endorsement on TV.

People around the world valued the Oprah Winfrey brand as a symbol of wholesome living and President Clinton as a representative of good governance. The powerful association served as a substantial attention grabber for Kiva and propelled them to outshine and outlast competitors.

In short, advertisers must discover using survey and focus group tools and consultations with behavioural scientists the deep values of their target customers.

Then use affiliation values marketing to grab their attention. The world’s most successful firms already use the new techniques. Go ahead and try it in your marketing and reap the rewards.