Fifteen years ago, the internet was a vast, new frontier for its users. There were no rules, no spam, no viruses, no hackers and, most importantly, no marketing. Users sat watchful and wide-eyed at whatever appeared on their monitors.
That was then. Today, consumers have become wary, jaded, hurt, and distrustful -- all of which translate into marketers needing better tools to get and keep consumers' attention.
This article provides some tricks for both getting and keeping consumer attention by making their wariness work for you. Along the way, it explains some of the science behind consumer attention and why some creative fails to capitalize on it.
I conducted a simple, four-step experiment during April's ad:tech San Francisco:
- Take an authentic conference name badge
- Put information on it that violates the social setting
- Stand where people will see you wearing the badge
- Observe and document their reactions
The experiment was simple but revealing.
For item No. 2 -- "violating the social setting" -- I changed my name badge from "Joseph Carrabis/NeuroMarketer-in-Residence/Critical Mass" to "Joseph Carrabis/Novotlea/Skippy and the Weylus."
I stood or walked or socialized in locations where most of the participants would walk past, around, or could walk up to me. As is the case at such events, people gazed at each other's badges while they walked, presumably thinking, do I know this person? Do I recognize this person? Is this someone I want to meet? Is this someone important? Do I want to do business with this person? Is this person valuable to me? Is this someone I want to avoid?
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At conferences, name badges answer such questions: name (Joseph Carrabis), function (NeuroMarketer-in-Residence) and company (Critical Mass). This expected and standard information "makes sense" in the conference/convention social setting. Attendees can glance at a badge and -- in less than a second -- choose a course of action.
Congruous and incongruous information
This experiment makes use of information being congruous or incongruous within a given social setting.
Congruous information is what people expect to encounter, and therefore what they are prepared to accept and recognize as valid.
Incongruous information is what people are not prepared to encounter, which forces them to create a new -- and, they hope, appropriate -- response.
My official badge information was congruous (expected, easily/readily accepted) to the ad:tech conference social setting.
But there's good and bad to congruous information.
The good is that one is readily identified, which is also the bad. Being readily identified is a two-edged sword. I indicated above that conference badges allow people to answer a vast array of questions quickly, when they walk past someone.
Neuroscientists call those questions psycho-cognitive and psycho-emotive information filters.
Everybody has these filters. A common example of one of these filters is walking along a city street and right past a homeless person without a glance.