How to Retain Your Reader’s Full Attention in 8 Seconds


This is an article by Zendra Mak. She is a second-year International Business student in France, and is originally from Malaysia. She has had specialized experience in social media marketing & management and plan to progress her future career in this industry. She dabbles in film & digital photography and creative writing in her past time. Feel free to follow her on Instagram


The Eight-Second Marketing

Both online and offline marketing channels have greatly changed through the years. Do our limited attention spans mean anything in the gradual transformation of our media and advertising today?

“We now have a shorter attention span than goldfish” (Egan, 2016).

We have all read the research. Be it Bloomberg or the New York Times – they all report the same findings. The world’s average attention span is a mere eight seconds, dropping four seconds in the past 16 years. How true is this? While we may not – should not – put an exact number on our attention spans, as this article by Policy Viz illustrates, it is still evident that our attention span has decreased greatly in this millennium. We are the generation of fast-paced lives, immediate deadlines, and instant information. Time is money, money is survival – and every second counts.

The Real Challenge

Digital content marketing in this day and age is constantly changing due to the ever-increasing popularity of online social networks, and the ubiquitous Internet. Content marketing creates customer value and loyalty, but figuring out what content to deliver and distribute is no longer a difficulty marketers face. Attempting to capture the customer’s eye in just eight seconds, is.

The first few seconds of any advertisement, article, blog post, or video has to be able to fully capture the target market’s attention. A content marketer now has to be able to empathize with his audience in order to cater to their limited attention span. This evolution in advertising and marketing has come in many forms – there are quirkily-designed infographics, trendy and relatable blog posts, to even informative advertisements using the latest lingo on the internet. The content marketing scene has managed to constantly adapt to keep up with this fast-paced generation with a wavering attention span.

The genius behind the product is the positioning.

Take Apple for example, each year we look forward to a beautifully-executed visual presentation presenting their unique new creation. But, as hilariously written in this article by Malcolm Gladwell, the revolutionary ideas behind Steve Jobs really lied in his talent for tweaking to perfection. But with the positioning of his products and ‘inventions’, Apple has developed a customer and brand loyalty like no other. Their ability to plant a desire in a potential customer’s mind within a few seconds is astounding.

While Apple’s products may not be at the frontline of innovation, but their marketing definitely seems to be! Positioning is vital to a company’s survival and success, and this just goes to show that consistently delivering the ideal customer experience is important in order to meet expectations and generate consumer value.

Content Marketing is at core

Content marketing at its core can be seen every day, all over social media. Our Facebook timelines, Instagram feeds, the Twitter sphere; these social networking sites have become a huge part of our daily lives. What we post, how we post it, the content that follows a post, and when we post it in a day, matters.

We barely notice it, but we are being fed information at every second. With the usage of cookies, websites are now able to detect what we’re looking at, what we’re interested in, and they use that to appeal to our short attention spans. YouTube ads that we skip before a video are easily embedded into our memories with catchy music and attractive visuals, and we don’t even know it!

Risks and Downsides

There can be a bad side to this, however. Negative ideas and beliefs can be easily broadcasted, grabbing attention and increasing influence. Marketers spreading bad messages prey on consumers’ gullibility and use that to churn beliefs and plant unfavorable values in people’s heads. The ideas of racism, discrimination, and xenophobia can be as easily spread around as equality and respect.

It is vital that marketers be educated and kept up to date with the constant changes in human influence and mentality in order to deliver unbiased, truthful information. And on the other hand – we, as consumers, must remain ever vigilant to falsities and acrimony being fed to us in just a few seconds.

Though there are risks, the possibilities for the digital content marketing sectors in businesses to advance are endless. The Internet has opened up a door to a ceaseless influx of information and the gradual evolution of the human mind. Businesses are forced to adapt to customers’ ever-changing demands and preferences, while people are always able to learn quicker and  retain information at a higher rate.

The key to marketing lies in firstly capturing the customer.

Learning about, knowing, and understanding the people that sit in front of those screens they’re projecting on will put marketers a step ahead in catering to their consumers. Adapting to the changes in literacy and learning in our generation today may be difficult but every day, we are revolutionizing the way people think and remember.

Content marketing strategies designed to appeal to our short attention spans will only allow us to advance the way we capture and create information. Corporations have to come up with unique ideas to generate influence and increase their popularity.

In a competition for our eight-second attention span, businesses will always strive to position their products more attractively, as well as develop better goods and services to suit our needs. But with continuous transitions in consumer expectations, will companies struggle to keep up with the changeable economy? What will it take to satisfy a customer in the next few decades?

What will marketing have to evolve to next?

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