What Will You Do When Your Customers No Longer Have Attention Spans?

Business man with head turning into light, shrugging.

In ancient times, marketers enjoyed plenty of time to prepare their campaigns, somewhere in between solar eclipses and seasonal equinoxes. Even as history progressed into a postindustrial world, marketers could find breathing room before and during campaigns in a static media world (think of 80s martini lunches or lounging in the office as in the show Mad Med).

Now it’s all changed. Maybe the Large Hadron Collider has already found a parallel universe, because it seems either time or human consciousness is moving faster.

Regardless, it’s never been harder to catch a customer’s attention. It’s threading a needle to the smallest of eyes that will blink of you’re too slow.

Here are the mind-numbing statistics that leave researchers awake in the dark night of the market analysis soul:

 10 seconds is the amount of time it takes a visitor to decide whether they’re going to stay on your page. (If someone stays on your page for more than 30 seconds, they will likely stay for more than two minutes, and will likely return later).
–  5 minutes is the average attention span of a person (dropping from 12 minutes in the course of the last 10 years).
–  30 seconds is the average length of a television commercial (down from one minute in the 1950s and 1960s).
–  90 seconds is the drop off attention in viewer retention to any marketing video.
–  30 seconds in the considered length of an elevator pitch (formelry 118 seconds, the average length of a New York elevator ride).
 20% is the average email open rate of any business email (while 95% of visitors never fill out a form in any industry’s website).
–  40% of visitors will leave a website if loading takes more than three seconds.

Our brains are also being rewired in the information age, according to cognitive neuroscientists. We no longer read left to right and absorb words, but are more like:

Our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies.

It’s fast and furious and futuristic. Existence has become one continous elevator pitch, with the elevator changing form every floor.

Does that mean reaching people is wishful thinking? A shot in the dark when it comes to qualitative market research? That only the mystery of “viral” or the tempest of dollar-clouds can make a difference—in a world where McDonald’s is continuously confounded by failed marketing campaigns and Google never divulges its secrets (even though there are countless SEO experts that know)?

Is everything hopeless?

Of course not. Nothing has changed, really.

Ridley Scott was able to express a dystopian reality in both his short iconic Apple commercial as he was in his classic movie Blade Runner. Marketing guru Seth Godin can convey deep insights into consumer behavior in his 100-word blog posts as he can his 200+ page classic All Marketers Are Liars. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is just as valuable in a short book form as it is in the spanning expression of Peter Jackson. The examples are endless.

How did they do it?

They understand their medium and they understand their audience. They are passionate about telling a story. They want to connect! Length and time do not matter, because those are relative in a post Theory of Relativity era—whether it’s a cave painting or War and Peace or a Snapchat snap.

As marketer David Meerman Scott said, “Think like a publisher, not a marketer.”

Or as author Clay Shirky wrote:

It is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future.

Finally, as we say here at qSample: “Always be connecting.”

Forget formulas and forget safety. Takes risks by moving the goal posts. This won’t guarantee immediate success but it will guarantee connection—and that will prove to be a future success, perhaps your own Apple commercial for the world.

Nothing has changed, really, even if you’re waiting for that solar eclipse or finding less than 140 characters to engage a potential customer.

As marketer Philip Sheldrake said, “Don’t measure what you can. Measure what you should.”


Enough attention span to watch our new video below?

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