Gone Fishin’: Ways To Reel In Your Audience

As a society, we have long joked about the goldfish and its embarrassing attention span. Do you remember watching your pet fish, Bubbles or Nemo or Jaws, in his bowl, eyes jutting from behind your tapping finger? He would swim to the bottom of his glass enclosure and hide behind that sunken pirate ship. You would pity his tiny brain and inability to retain information, but for no more is the gold fish the butt of our jokes.

Recent studies now show that you (and your fellow 21st century citizens) have a shorter attention span than your pet fish.

Throw the once finite number of 12 seconds of coherent thought out the window. Amongst today’s ever stimulating world, most people now lose focus after merely 8 seconds of attention. Doesn’t sound so bad? Goldfish can hold attention for 9 seconds.

Take that in for a second. We’ve been so busy interacting with multiple screens, multiple windows and balancing additional conversations on top of Spotify playlists that we’ve allowed the goldfish to surpass us. It doesn’t look like things will take a turn for the better any time soon, either. With that realization comes challenges for digital marketers and designers alike:

How do you break through the clutter and hold the ever-fleeting attention of your target audience?

Digital Marketing Is A Highway 

Imagine you’re driving down the highway (likely going 70+ if you’re in Texas). Cars are speeding along with you on either side, maybe your kids are in the back incessantly kicking your seat, the radio announces a new Lady Gaga song (what is this, 2013?) and you see a fluffy poodle, tongue waving in the breeze, rolling alongside you with its head hung happily out the window.


The scene you just experienced is no different from today’s digital landscape. Even Facebook, which optimizes its platform based on user experience, can’t stop its users from zooming down their timelines hoping something catches their attention. If our digital networks and platforms are going to act like highways, let’s treat them like one.

Treat your digital ad like you would a billboard. Follow the following principles and you’ll get your messaging across in a memorable way, regardless of those 3 seconds you’ve captured.

  • Try to keep messaging between 3-8 words
  • Make copy skimmable and easy to digest
  • Utilize impactful, to-the-point imagery
  • Create a clear CTA (Call To Action) and navigation
  • Tell stories, pull heart strings
  • Utilize video no longer than 1:30, making the first 8 seconds attention-grabbing
  • Use social platforms that align with your target demographic – Twitter, Periscope and Snapchat tend to have younger audiences because of their fast, fleeting updates. Facebook and Instagram are fairly all encompassing of all ages. LinkedIn skews older.
  • Optimize for all screens – design specific dimensions and tailor your ads per platform

According to Hubspot (a favorite source of us digital marketers), “The average user picks up their phone more than 1,500 times a week.” During work, during dinner, during their favorite shows and even during conversations with their loved ones. If users today can’t even listen to those they care for most without being distracted, how can we get them to view our messages intently? Hubspot experts also noted that on the average web page, a typical user will only read 28% of words during their visit with average page visits spanning only 10-20 seconds.

The best way to combat our decreasing attention spans is to just keep swimming. Design for your audience and make content that is interesting and innovative. Despite our goldfish-like tendencies, people will focus when something catches their attention. The job is becoming increasingly difficult for marketers across the globe, but following these tips can give you an edge over the competition.

Digital marketing is a fast-paced, ever-changing environment. If it is hard for you to keep up, we understand. Don’t struggle through, just let us do it.

Tribu specializes in goldfish nurturing.

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Be a Revolutionary for the Sake of Marketing

Earlier today I shared some of my favorite marketing wisdom with our Tribe at our weekly Explorer meeting. I think it’s worth sharing with everyone. Don’t take this for granted….these ideas/strategies/insights are nothing short of absolutely brilliant.

Here goes….

1] Think at the crossroads of disciplines to discover breakthrough ideas where different worlds collide.
2] Think differently about thinking differently – experiment (!)
3] Use intuition, imagination, inspiration, and ideation to think the unthinkable.
4] Create new alternatives and perspectives.
5] Use forward looking thinking to define and communicate a compelling vision as part of entrepreneurial leadership.
6] Develop a balance between science and art, logic and imagination, using “whole-brain thinking”.
7] Think holistically by approaching marketing as a system with various ecosystems.
8] Think in 4D – beyond the limitations of the three dimensions inside and outside the box.
9] Solve problems in novel ways using pictures as part of kaleidoscopic thinking.
10] Use the mind’s eye, myths, memories, mystery, and magic to think metaphorically (this is why I’ve included the National Jewish Health dance ad….it’s a metaphor that believe strongly communicates & positions the National Jewish Health name. Genius creativity!)
11] Think in reverse by reversing assumptions about cause and effect to remove obstacles.
12] Think “leapfrog” to develop creative leverage that overcomes inertia
13] Use unconventional wisdom to develop a whole new mindset that channels thinking and action
14] Be a revolutionary for the sake of marketing – embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty to learn adaptively by thinking with tenacity
CREDIT: Schindehutte, M., Morris, M. H., & Pitt, L. F. (2009). Rethinking marketing: the entrepreneurial imperative. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.
…and a BIG thanks to Dr. Byus, the amazing person who shared this insight with me.

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