The war for attention

My text cursor flashed impatiently in the Google search bar.

I was initially thankful none of my friends were around, until I remembered that tidbit didn't really matter since I definitely wasn't searching for "cheap Bieber tickets Cleveland."

The page vanished for a moment before returning oodles of results to pick from. I clicked the first link I saw, which didn't say "40% Justin Bieber Tickets - Tickets @ Quicken Loans Arena." That would just be bizarre.

The new page sprang to life almost instantly, filling my screen with bursts of color, eye-popping graphics, dozens of words in various fonts and sizes. After orienting myself, I started sifting through the information in front of me.

In another tab I'd already opened, a Facebook chat alert appeared. I switched over to that window, catching up briefly with an old friend before a post on my news feed caught my eye. Apple's developing a hybrid trash can/computer? Sold.

One of the comments on the Apple Trashputer article reminded me I'm out of garbage bags. I add it to my to-do list on my phone when I get a text messageO. Craft beer tasting downtown? Ten minutes? See you in two. I should probably put on pants first.

I exited my browser and close my computer. In that instant, the page hosting the cheap Bieber tickets I wasn't searching for died. It competed for my attention, and it lost.

A time for multi-tasking

Outside sources have always competed for our attention, whether through radio advertisements, panhandlers, phone calls from friends. Our attention is our second-most valuable commodity. Time is the most valuable. When someone or something earns our attention, we give them our time, even if it's only a few seconds.

If your brand is going to win someone's attention, be the brand offering the craft beer tasting in the story above. Just because someone decides they want something - in my case, cheap Justin Bieber tickets - doesn't mean that person will make the choice to commit their time or attention to it.

The biggest challenge businesses face today is the ever-increasing amount of outside influences competing for a consumer's attention. Conversely, it's become infinitely easier for consumers to ignore those influences.

With the release of the first generation of iPhones in 2007, our culture saw the most significant change it's ever seen in the way people react to outside influences. Smart phones centralized people's daily activities - they no longer needed to sit in front of a computer to access e-mail or Facebook. Want to shut out the outside world and bury yourself in your smart phone during your daily commute on the bus? Go ahead. In fact, it's almost become abnormal to engage strangers in conversation in those situations.

Have something to say

An age-old stereotype is that men are attracted to looks and women are attracted to personality.

When it comes to your brand, you need both. People identify with businesses that take a stance on something, or have something to say. Don't be that awkward, sweaty-palmed kid on a first date constantly sipping water in some dismal attempt to avoid conversation. Be snarky. Act better than everyone else (but be able to back it up).

Whatever personality you decide to adopt, stick to it and don't change for the vocal minority or a group of detractors. Know why?  You won't be universally liked by everyone. Go ahead - gasp, cry, break down. I know it's difficult to accept. The sooner you do, the better off you'll be. You'll go broke spending time, money and effort trying to win the attention of someone who doesn't jive with your personality and isn't interested in your products or services.

Recognize that that's OK. Spend time showing your audience you care about them, but don't neglect your appearance - your looks. A smelly kid with the best personality in the world still reeks. Bathe every once in a while, man.

A company is more than its brand. It's a potential suitor to its customers. You're courting men and women, hoping beyond hope they find you charming, witty, engaging and worthy of their time and attention.

In the end, it's all about the war for attention. Win, and flourish. Lose, and brood in the corner watching the other, cooler brand claim the prize.

Simple, right?

by Matt DeFaveri