Feb 20, 2019

Better Thinking and Branding in a Culture of Attention Deficit


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As we migrate through a culture of attention deficit, how can you enhance creativity, both as an individual, and for your brand?

An infamous Microsoft study claimed that since the new millenium, the average human attention span is at an all time low of 8 seconds—most notably, lower than that of goldfish. While dwindling attention spans have been grabbing headlines for a while, it’s not unanimously viewed as doomsday. A subsequent Prezi report exemplifies how attention spans aren’t shrinking, but rather evolving.

“It’s certainly logical to believe our attention spans are in decline. With so much content coming at us constantly across multiple channels and devices, it’s hard to focus on any one thing for any length of time. Here’s something perplexing, though: While many of us struggle to pay attention during a one-hour business meeting, we have no trouble binge-watching a series on Netflix for six hours at a stretch.” – Prezi VP of Marketing, Nadjya Ghausi

Ultimately, modern users can stay engaged for longer periods of the time, it just comes down to creating content that compels your audience through storytelling both visually and verbally.


“Boredom Leads to Brilliance”

In Manoush Zomorodi’s TedTalk, “How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas,” she analyzes how shorter (or evolving) attention spans have created a compulsion to fill any open space throughout the day with distractions on our phones, eliminating any time for the brain to go into “default mode”—to get bored. The pervasiveness of the hustle mentality, where being “always on” is considered a virtue, has also contributed to the perception of multitasking as a means to reach peak efficiency.

But when we examine multitasking in the brain, Zomorodi’s research shows that it’s quickly switching from one thing to the next, as opposed to operating simultaneously. That means that each time you shift attention from one thing to the next, your brain utilizes a neurochemical that uses up nutrients in the brain. These rapid shifts use glucose with each switch, depleting our neural resources—of which, we have a finite supply. Essentially, our efforts to optimize, multitask and reach peak efficiency end up depleting our body’s resources.


People or Products?

In this constant churn, brands are looking for opportunities to capture that precious mindshare. Netflix Chief Executive, Reed Hastings, even cites their biggest competitor as sleep. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, says that any time an online service is free, you’re the product. So combine our evolving attention spans, multitasking mindset and a digital economy that measures success by the time it takes from you, and how do you combat these shifts to take back time, efficiency and creativity?

Perhaps by allowing ourselves to sit in the sometimes uncomfortable open space, without distractions, to engage default mode in the brain—encouraging connecting disparate ideas and problem solving. For personal productivity and creativity, more mindfulness, less multitasking may be the answer. For reaching your brand’s audience, meet them where they are.

If Netflix is capturing attention spans long enough for users to binge-watch a full season in one day, how can you connect with your target audience deeply enough to change their behavior, despite the daily overload?

Firstly, create resonance; by knowing a core target inside and out to identify how to fill a gap in their lives with a product that aligns with their tensions, motivations and lifestyle overall. Secondly, sustain that relevance; ensuring you remain keyed-in to your target audience to foster long-term adoption, and ideally loyalty and advocacy.

Is your brand creating and sustaining relevancy to reach modern consumers plagued with information overload?

If not, we should talk

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