Grabbing Attention Is Good. But Holding Attention Is Better

I hate the lightbulb icon as a symbol for ideas. It’s too binary: First you need an idea, then (eureka!) you have the answer. That’s not how great marketing happens. It happens not in theory but in reality, through constant testing and iterating. The days of Don Draper concocting a single campaign are so last quarter/year/decade/century.

Maybe it’s time we rethink that ubiquitous lightbulb. As for what should go in its place? I have the perfect new recruit: 🤦

Yup. The facepalm emoji.

When you actually learn something, it always feels head-smackingly obvious, doesn’t it? The best books, speakers, mentors, and content always make you go, “Of course! How could I not see that before?”

In 2019, I learned—or better said, remembered—to ask the question: What is marketing for?

In years past, marketing was about grabbing attention—a few moments in time, a message delivered. Today, that’s still necessary, but it’s insufficient. Marketing has a new mandate. It’s not about grabbing attention. It’s about HOLDING attention. Nothing we do matters unless people actually stick around.

🤦 Of course! How could we forget?

The real results we seek only happen when people walk over, sit down, and stick around—then call others to join them. We spend so much time thinking about brand awareness, but that’s a proxy for what we really want: brand affinity.

So why not focus on what we really want? We want people to stick around. We want to hold attention. When we do, everything else we’re trying to achieve gets easier.

In 2019, I learned the power of making branded shows. I compiled the world’s biggest list of examples and worked alongside some of the industry’s brightest to craft the CMO’s business case for branded shows. If you make a podcast or video series, you’re expressly focused on holding attention, not merely grabbing it.

The plan can’t be to trick or hack your way into someone’s life. To hold attention, the only plan must be to provide your audience with a worthwhile experience. Shows are the world’s best vehicle for doing that. They help marketers create compounding returns on our content investment, since shows are binge-worthy when done right. They also allow for more efficiency as marketers keep repurposing and reimagining their shows.

In the end, when we hold attention, the lifetime value of our audience goes up, while our cost of customer acquisition goes down thanks to word-of-mouth. (That sound you hear is every CMO nodding furiously.)

Don’t make more “pieces” of content. Make a show.

Don’t grab attention. Hold it.

Don’t just fixate on who arrives. Care about who stays.

Jay Acunzo is the founder of Marketing Showrunners, a media company covering the movement of brands making shows, with subscribers from Amazon Prime, the New York Times, Red Bull, MailChimp, Adobe, Shopify, Salesforce, and more. He hosts the podcast 3 Clips, which makes sense of great podcasts, a few pieces at a time.


Image by iStockPhoto

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