Amanda Lordy, managing director of digital content at NASCAR, recently gave a presentation at Content Marketing World 2020. She opened her talk, Engaging Storytelling at Speed, with a couple of attention-grabbing statistics: 1) Goldfish have a 9-second attention span, whereas humans measure in at 8 seconds, and, 2) Americans are exposed to anywhere between 4,000 to 10,000 ads every day.
Ten thousand ads per day? Really? That stat may require a little suspension of disbelief. Still, her point was made. Humans and their pet goldfish are inundated with an avalanche of information—whether from advertising, content marketing, entertainment or news—every day. The question for marketers is, “How do you create content that not only grabs people’s attention, but also keeps it for longer than 8 seconds?”
The answer is the same as it’s always been. In order for content to grab someone’s attention, it has to be interesting. It sounds so simple! Why, then, do so many companies struggle to create interesting content?
Here are a few reasons why:
- They aren’t doing their homework. Determining what kind of content will interest potential customers often requires primary research, ideally conducted by a neutral third party. Due to budget and time constraints, many companies rely on insights scraped together from salespeople, customer surveys, website traffic and purchase history. But that information may only represent current buyers and not the needs and interests of the growing market.
- Their content is FAB. And that doesn’t mean fabulous, but rather features-and-benefits heavy. Let’s say a diaper company’s content mainly promotes an absorbent layer that locks in wetness. The feature is the absorbent layer. The corresponding benefit is a dry baby bottom. But what may interest exhausted parents most is that dry bottoms help babies sleep better.
- Their brand-building eggs are in a short-term basket. No matter whether a brand is being built via traditional advertising, content marketing or a mix of tactics, generating brand loyalty is a long game. Yes, at times it’s necessary for marketers to drive short-term revenue with “act now” advertising, but successful companies know that even when their content is interesting and relevant to their audience, a brand-loyalty payoff requires patience.
Howard Gossage, a wise ad man from the Mad Men era, famously said, “Nobody reads advertising. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.” Today, sometimes it’s a social post or a blog. And sometimes the audience is watching instead of reading. But one thing is for sure: If your content isn’t interesting, no matter how long your branding game is, you’re not likely to win.