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The Attention Economy by Devonport & Beck

The problem of information overload has a serious impact on economics.  In their book, The Attention Economy, Davenport & Beck speculate that attention will replace finance as the focus of our economic system.  Whilst the book covers all communication transactions leadership, raising children, self-motivation, even animal training; the focus here is on client communication and marketing.

“If you want to be successful in the current economy, you have got to be good at getting attention …

“Attention economics” today is primarily concerned with the problem of getting consumers to consume advertising …

“Businesses need to get and hold customer’s attention in order to achieve business success …

“Like aeroplane seats and fresh food, attention is a highly perishable commodity …

“One way to get attention from customers, of course, is to give them attention …”

Thomas C Davenport and John C Beck

The cost of advertising to clients is now sufficiently low that more ads can be transmitted than the client can process.  Therefore, your clients attention is a scarce resource which you have to attract.

You need to use whichever media is most appropriate for getting the message in front of your clients, whether that is direct mail, PR, eshots, editorials for example, and you need to focus on the attention process.

There are six basic types of attention grabbers

1. AVERSIVE – using shock value ie highly unattractive people – ugly Betty.  Or defeat death ie, tar blackened lungs

2. CAPTIVE – audiences that can’t go anywhere ie, Cinema ads, Urinals, Bad weather

3. BACK OF MIND – automatic purchases ie your spouse or buying milk, or just commuting

4.  FRONT OF MIND – active visual reminders ie when buying a car, loyalty points – Starbucks

5. VOLUNTARY – consumer interest choice via, TV and printed ads attracting those with hobbies

6. ATTRACTIVE – celebrity sells you know: beautiful people and the thrill of success


When attracting attention through marketing, we must consider the audience, for example: Who is watching, reading, listening? When are they watching, reading, listening? And where? Is it a captive audience? What is the profile, age and demographics of your target? What else is happening, what is topical, what is newsworthy? Are you speaking to an individual or groups of people?

What one audience might be happy to hear another may not be prepared to give it the time of day.  Target your audience with an attentive message.


Matching needs to functions or features has never been more important in the attention economy.  When time is sparse the closer you match the benefits to the needs the easier you make it for your client to buy.  So consider where your target client fits in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and construct your message accordingly.  For example

Growth & Learning – Use facts and new info

Self-esteem – Tell a story

Belonging – Instil recognition, trust and familiarity

Security – Shock and controversy

Basic sustenance – Sex sells!

Keep it real, make it memorable, mix it up, alter the flow, then once you have their attention make it convenient and don’t interrupt.  Don’t forget to include what you want them to do with the information you have just given them. 

Other considerations to factor in

Trust – what will make your target clients believe what you say is true.  a testimonial from a satisfied customer like them perhaps?

Charisma, charm appeal – how do you make the offer so sexy, so irresistible?

Influence and power – Can you add an expert opinion?

Unique, visual, new – what is so different or unusual about your offer?

Related to an issue or question – is there any relation to the latest news or topic under discussion?

Concise and direct message – what is the simple message, the problem you are solving?

Personalising – can you direct the message to the individual?

Relevance to group or community – What is the message that galvanises the group?


When other people take notice of us, it has quite a profound impact on our self-esteem.  When others are compassionate and empathise with our situation, the emotion is quite powerful. When others applaud and congratulate our achievements, the attention is deeply delightful.  So harness the attention economy; pay attention to your customers and give them the prominence YOU deserve.

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