Can I borrow you for eight seconds?

Can I borrow you for eight seconds?

It’s hard to pay attention sometimes, isn’t it? That’s not just a subjective feeling, but actually a statement based on a recent finding: our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. With all of our modern distractions from smartphones, to tablets, connected TVs, wearable tech and beyond, the attention span of your average consumer now stands at roughly eight seconds.

Eight seconds!

Of course, that doesn’t mean that people can only focus for eight seconds at a time. We can always concentrate on a piece of work or copy if it’s of interest (or if we are paid to!). But it does mean that the average business has only eight seconds to win a new customer over. That’s about 20 seconds shorter than the average television ad. For that reason, this article isn’t about cramming as much information and branding into eight seconds as possible. It’s about how to make those crucial first eight seconds count.

Contrary to popular opinion, this doesn’t necessarily require shock tactics or outrageous stunts, but it does help to heed a simple call to action: “we are all media companies now.” First mentioned by Forrester analyst Nick Thomas in 2009, this statement has become the rallying cry of prominent marketers ever since. And is it any wonder?

Audiences are becoming more fragmented as digital media consumption takes over. Users are demanding more and more engaging content for free. Businesses are struggling to be heard over the deafening noise of never-ending marketing messages. Marketing teams are constantly required to generate campaigns that provide real value to consumers and understand their customers inside out.

All of this of course, is the responsibility of the CMO. Brands have long been using content to engage users, but as we continue to move from a distribution paradigm to a consumption paradigm, there are a number of new skills that have become priorities.

The first is agility.

If you think about the characteristics of companies that embrace a media mindset, the most obvious thing is that they are content machines. Media companies push out content that interests their readers and encourages them to share, and they do it quickly. There’s no red tape, no legal approver (most of the time) and no brand approver. Speed is the key.

The second skill is editing.

Good editing is all about clarity. It’s about securing the first eight seconds of your user’s attention, then perhaps another eight more. Effective editors are always interested in the material they write and should be able to grasp the basic objective of each piece of content and how it fits into the wider marketing objectives. With the proliferation of content, this skill is becoming increasingly in demand.

Finally, CMOs should learn how to make their customers the heroes of their stories.

Brands should celebrate their customers and not themselves. The best stories always have a human element to them. It’s easy to understand why - because readers are people. They can see themselves in stories and they can identify with lead characters.  Customers will relate better to your story if you communicate it to them on their level. CMOs should try to imagine how their business’ products or services touch people’s lives and amplify that.

Exceptional media companies create content that is specific enough to be believable and universal enough to be relevant. Although brand storytelling is a hot buzzword, the concept has actually been around for decades.  Stories aren’t about facts, figures and statistics. They are captivating, memorable and inspiring. They allow us to forget the mundane and transport us to a place where our imagination can run wild.  Grabbing and holding onto the attention of customers has never been an easy task and with today’s digital revolution, technology explosion and proliferation of content, it has become a lot harder. But it’s not impossible.

So did we keep your attention?