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By Jaime Veiga Mateos & Joshua Saxon

Studies show that the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day. And as marketers are presented with more and more channels to reach their customers, that number is growing rapidly.

Consumers switch between screens up to 21 times an hour according to a British study, which correlates with Microsoft’s recent claim that the average person’s attention span is now just eight seconds; less than that of a goldfish…

At IE School of Human Sciences and Technology, students are constantly building their knowledge of how to break through all that noise and create impactful marketing messages. Academic director of Market Research and Consumer Behaviour Jaime Veiga Mateos affirms the growing number of distractions is definitely posing a problem for today’s marketer.

“As consumers, our attention is divided across different screens and multi-tasking so the fight for our attention is tougher than ever,” he said.

With so many distractions surrounding your target market, how can you make your brand stand out and create the kind of urgency that makes them take action?

It’s not you, it’s me

One of the biggest mistakes a marketer can make is to frame a campaign in terms of what they themselves want to achieve. Of course, it’s essential to have goals as part of any actionable plan, but thinking of things exclusively in terms of your company’s objectives and ignoring what the customer wants can lead to bad practices.

“New technologies and social platforms are enabling new ways of testing for market researchers,” Mateos said.

“Today, A/B testing in the digital world allows companies and researchers to assess a campaign’s impact on consumer behavior – in some cases up to the online purchase. And most importantly, they can do this with a limited time-frame so investment and business impact is limited.”

By understanding exactly who their customers are, marketers are better equipped to create attention-grabbing campaigns that also add real value.

The rise in clickbait is playing with this idea, targeting consumers with headlines that speak to them emotionally based on their interests, location, demographic, and other metrics. But this tactic generally fails to offer anything the user really wants once they’ve has clicked through, reducing the overall impact of a campaign. Remembering to serve your customer before yourself avoids this kind of vapid engagement by consistently offering relevant, engaging content.

Happy customer, happy company.

That’s entertainment

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said, “This whole idea of an attention span is, I think, a misnomer. People have an infinite attention span if you are entertaining them.”

Fellow comic Steve Martin offered a similar sentiment, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

While there’s a lot of competitors out there vying for your customers’ attention every day, not all of them are doing it well.

“Companies need to generate simpler messages, communicated in a sharper way and of course they need to adapt those messages to each context – making them more visual, emotional and engaging,“ said Mateos, noting that a great way to achieve this is with humor or an emotional appeal.

Entertainment, emotion and engagement all go hand in hand. The most engaging dramas – be they cinematic, theatrical or literary – tend to be predicated on some sort of emotional rollercoaster that turns from scene to scene: love/hate, up/down, or problem/resolution.

Let’s take a product that’s been using this strategy effectively for years: weight-loss programs. Marketing campaigns for weight-loss companies tend to start out by preying on people’s fears and insecurities about their bodies. “But wait, look at that guy… He looks great now. What a positive change! And all it took was a milkshake? Sign me up!”

Effective marketing will stand out if it elicits the right emotions for your target market.

Don’t give up

Just because your campaign didn’t hit home on the first try doesn’t mean it’s not working on a different level. Some believe the average consumer needs to see your message seven times before they take action, while others estimate that number could be as high as 20.

Mateos understands the importance of a consistent message delivered through strategies such as drip marketing (a series of pre-written emails scheduled weekly, for example).

“Repeated messages and frequently retrieved information will generate a strong footprint which is easier for consumers to access in the future. But the message needs to be relevant and engaging,” he said.

However, this by no means suggests we should be cranking out mediocre content and spamming our customers’ inboxes. Aiming for exposure rates as high as 20 could actually have a negative impact on your brand and even evoke anger in the person you’re hounding with it.

Plan your content strategy deliberately and give the people what they want while keeping it relevant to them and your brand.

Only then will you earn yourself a slightly larger slice of the attention pie.

Jaime Veiga Mateos is the academic director of Market Research and Consumer Behaviour at IE School of Human Sciences and Technology, which combines consumer psychology with research & analytics in a strategic business context. A program built around the needs of industry recruiters. Discover how you can become a professional with impact at www.ie.edu/mrcb or call call +34 91 56896 00 for more information.

Joshua Saxon is a business and technology journalist currently interested in digital marketing trends and tech startups. He has written for several high-profile newspapers, magazines and websites in the UK and internationally. Contact him at joshua@veracontent.com