The Long And The Short Of It

I’m going to keep this short.  While listening to one of my favourite podcasts – Armchair Expert – interviewing one of my favourite guests – Ira Glass from This American Life – there was a great discussion around the disconnect between our shortening attention spans and the impact it has on our media consumption.  While we are now absorbing news and information increasing within social media channels like Twitter, Snapchat which facilitate our decreasing attention spans, we’re increasingly binge watching other media, where we allocate time and effort to watch shows like Making a Murderer, House of Cards (latest season – save your time).

It was this conversation that sparked my short term interest in how brands now have to deliver and recognise how and when to deliver their messages. Take the upcoming Victorian state election – the only opportunity for the parties to influence my decision was to appeal to my short term attention span.  I don’t watch news on the television, I will skim websites and will ignore social media advertising so it was only at the early voting station, in the 5 second walk inside, that how to vote pamphlets shoved in my direction, that could have any impact.  However, the free for all frenzy of potentially the only early voter on that day meant I rejected all advances made at me and made my decision in the moment.

In contrast, while booking flights for trip to the US office, brands had every opportunity to influence during the decision making process.  Driven by love of a loyalty program, I started with my preferred airline, I then checked a comparison website, I then viewed options for different dates, deliberated, considered and finally, booked.  For someone who believes in speed and efficiency, when it comes to travel booking, I’m a dithering mess and can be easily influenced at any stage of the 30 minute process.

The environment plays a factor as well.  Most mornings, I will skim the websites of 3-4 news sites, rarely clicking through as I get what I need from the headlines.  However put a newspaper in front of me in the plane (ok, the one I ‘borrowed’ from the lounge), and I will actively engage in reading the stories that I wouldn’t have bothered with online.

In no way am I representative of the population but it does highlight some of the challenges brands have.  We’ve started working with a new client whose work and contribution is incredibly impressive but not immediate or providing that instant gratification for the audience they’re trying to impress.  So how can they not only keep the attention and engagement of the supporter base over a long period of time, when their measure of success is a long term result.

In the podcast, Dax and Ira discuss how it’s traditionally the dramas that are being binge-watched and the shorter comedies that more likely to be watched still thriving on traditional channels so maybe brands need to have that thinking.  Give us the positive, fun and humorous messages in the moment across the channels where we don’t have to give our full attention.  For the more serious messages, give us the long form and time to absorb the message as well as help facilitate the environment in which we engage.  At the end of the day, it comes back to understanding the customer experience you think you have with your customers and then identifying the actual experience and the touchpoints you can influence.


By Paul Dixon

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