Friday, June 1, 2012

Interrupting for attention

Followers of this blog have seen before my mentions of consultant Seth Grodin and his pithy observations on the nature of marketing, media, and the like.  In a recent interview, Grodin made some especially salient points on the subject of "moving from advertising to marketing."  Common misperception: advertising IS marketing.  No.  Advertising is one aspect of a much bigger thing called "marketing."  Marketing can start when a product or service is first conceived...who needs this widget?  What makes it better than other widgets already out there?  Can we make it and sell it at a price that can be competitive and still make enough money to make it worth our time and effort...and risk?  At some point, you finally start thinking about advertising, where, to whom, how much, and how.

As with everything else, marketing and its more visible component, advertising, are affected by rapidly changing technology that has scrambled the landscape.  Changed it since I started typing this post.  And Seth Grodin has some interesting points to make in that regard:

We all grew up learning about the industrial revolution. Every revolution then brings an age behind it. The industrial revolution created the industrial age. What was hard about the industrial age was making stuff. Henry Ford didn’t get rich because he ran good commercials. He got rich because he made a car better for the money than anyone ever had before. So, for half a century making stuff was key.

Then, once you got factories up and running making stuff, there’s a demand for mass media. We invented television to make advertisers happy, not the other way around. And so in this second era, the mass media era, we’ve got lots and lots of attention because television manufactured attention and we needed to grab that attention and turned it into money. 

But attention is now scarce. It’s not abundant anymore. There’s a million or a billion channels to choose from, not three. There is a store one click away that sells every item ever made as opposed to the local store where shelf space was scarce. All of those things undermine the importance of making average stuff because it’s easier than ever before.
You can design something on your computer, send an email to China and a month later it comes back and you didn’t have to do anything. The hard part isn’t getting shelf space because everyone gets the same amount of shelf space on Amazon as everybody else. The hard part is earning attention and trust, and nothing that Henry Ford did was about attention or trust.

Interruption (as in traditional media advertising) does work unless your interruptions are being interrupted.
If you stand up in church and start screaming and yelling, everyone will notice you. They may not trust you but they’ll notice you. What has happened is the amount of interruption, the amount of noise, has gone from getting two emails a day to 450. So you can interrupt my email box all you want. It’s not going to work.

And so we replaced this idea that you could steal my attention with the idea that you could earn it and I have to pay it to you. I can’t get it back because once attention is gone, it’s gone forever. But the person who owns attention has built a worthwhile asset.
Name one company that has gone on the internet and built a brand, a jingle, a slogan or a logo. The answer is none. The Internet doesn’t build those things the way TV does. What the Internet builds is connection, and every successful Internet company and every successful Internet marketer is successful for that and only that reason: They have earned attention, built trust and turned it into profit.

Grodin goes on to talk about telling stories, establishing "tribes" that are loyal to whatever you are selling.  These should be familiar concepts to those who follow this blog.

Each day, I mark several emails as "spam" and block the sender from ever landing in my inbox again.  But I don't do that to every piece of incoming advertising email.  Some I am polite enough to unsubscribe.  Others I allow to waft right on in every single time for my consideration.  Why?  Because some of it has earned my trust.  I want to see what they have to offer.  I have become part of their "tribe."  Same thing with ads that interrupt "Hatfields and McCoys" or whatever else I may have DVRed.  If I want to see the "story" they are offering, I'll allow that ad to spin out in normal time.

Example: the DirecTV commercials that tell me--through outrageous example--what will happen if I continue to stick with cable.  Some hate 'em.  That's the risk they take when they tell a story.  But the stories they tell will resonate with many, many others who are frustrated with cable.  That makes the ads successful.  That and the marketing that went into not only the ads but the product offered about which they speak.

Don Keith N4KC


Anonymous said...


If you owned a string of radio stations, AM & FM, what kind of programing content would I be hearing from your stations.

I enjoy your thought provoking comments on the future of broadcasting but am wondering if you could be specific on what you yourself would do to move your stations to the next level. what kind of programs would we be hearing?

As a broadcast journalist, having worked for many years in radio up in Alaska, I share your concerns and am very interested in your specific ideas.

73 de Jamie, KL7WP

Anonymous said...

Jamie, it is not a dodge when I say, "It depends." It depends on what the market needs, what advertisers need, what I think could attract enough attention to build a "tribe" big enough to be economically viable.

Though I haven't programmed a radio station in 25 years, my head is full of "formats" that I think could fit in the right situation. I also think it is easier--but vastly different--to promote a new radio station through social media nowadays.

Am I willing to put up my retirement accounts and buy some stations? No, you can call my bluff on that one. But it baffles me that some stations and groups are willing to continue the same-old same-old, playing the ratings game, and selling just enough ads with smoke and mirrors to keep the transmitter HV turned on.

Thanks for stopping by, Jamie. I appreciate your input.

Don N4KC