Enlightened Conflict

the attention value equation (may I have your attention?)

August 8th, 2016

ok look at me attention



“An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgements simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore.”



Edward de Bono




“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”



Simone Weil




“Genius is nothing but continued attention.”



Claude Adrien Helvetius





attention trillion content strategy gain

Targeting customers in business, for business, used to be about … well … targets.  More specifically … demographics.




Not anymore.




Attitude, or attitudinal targeting, has replaced age & income & crap like that.


What I mean by that is if you develop a compelling message that connects with aspirations & attitudes … well … I don’t really care about the demographics of someone.


This means a business goes forth ignoring who someone is physically and, with an intent to connect with or maybe change a mindset <or at least make the mind think> and create some desired behavior, goes out and connects with aspirations and expectations by delivering ‘something’ <it could be a variety of tactics, images & words> with relevance and resonance.


And then it all comes down to tactics <connection points – which is place & timing>.




Beyond the actual targeting of people <who should I aim my message at> it seems more and more we were actually paying attention to … well … attention.


Someone actually called this topic “the attention value equation.”


The equation is fairly simple …


“I give you my attention … I expect to get something in return” = some value



This value equation is almost like a transaction.

My attention is the currency which I am going to lay out on the table expecting to get something for it. And the true value? The attention giver actually feels like they got an additional ‘gift’ <that’s the highest order of attention value>.




Of course, in today’s word this creates some massive, but not insurmountable, behavior smartphone teléfonochallenges.


The opportunity exists in the fact that over 90% of almost the entire business targeting population now is interested in maximizing their ‘mobility.’ I once called this the ‘nomad generation’ but let’s just say that we are being socially conditioned to live much of our daily Life from wherever we are <enabled by some smart technology>.


The challenge is that “live much of our daily Life from wherever we are” is a self-empowered decision where attention is ‘given’ … uhm …‘spent’ … if I continue with the equation theory.


Whatever I spend I … well … don’t want to “lose” <get nothing for it>.


And while many people smarter than I would step in here and suggest we should treat attention as a gift I will not. I will suggest that attention is money extended as part of a transaction. But with a twist.


They are paying upfront. You get the money no matter what. They get nothing if you give them nothing <uh oh>.


That thought places attention unequivocally into a transaction equation.


And that is the reason why from the ‘attention receiver’ standpoint content marketing is an essential tactic. Because it isn’t really a tactic … it is an intimate engagement in which money has been exchanged and someone wants to receive, at minimum, value for the exchange and , at maximum, some acknowledgement of the intimacy <but this does not need to be done in every exchange>.


The danger in taking what I just wrote literally is that someone could view exchanges as one-on-one transactions at some given point in time.


uh oh scooby attentionWhy is it a danger?


Because it avoids the fact that there is a constant ever increasing flow of information in which people are often not only drowning in that flow but also unsure of how to enter into the flow and not get swept away.


It’s the flow of memes, animated GIFs, updates, events, questions, conversations, breaking news updates and every other digital drop of water creating the flood of information.


In addition the giver of attention has a constant flow of attention running through everything available on the ‘must do’ and ‘should I do’ and ‘want to do’ at exactly the same time.




This is where most marketing people stand up and say “do break thru execution and you will win.”


The intent is quasi-correct but the challenge is steep.




It implies one engagement & connection is sacrosanct.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

You gotta start somewhere an treating each moment & engagement as ‘important’ is … well … important. But it ignores the fact that managing ‘touchpoints’ is like staring at beautiful trees while the forest could be burning down.




Did you know that 4.6 billion pieces of content are produced daily?

shoot someone get attention business

Tweets / Videos / Whitepapers /Email / Listicles / Instagrams / Webinars / Vines /Infographics / Podcasts / eBooks / GIFs / Blogs /Memes


4.6 billion.






I mention this because, getting back to targeting and attitudes, if you want to discuss attention & attention value … well … unfortunately you have to discuss data.




Most people who formulate attention/connection communications have an aversion to data.




I encourage everyone to think about data a little differently.


Think of the fact that Data is actually the result of someone doing things over and over again through connections with other people. Maybe think of it as a massive research program of ‘one-on-one interviews.’


And, as with any research, when you compile the interviews you can very easily lose sight of the fact that each data point represents real people who dedicated their real attention at some particular identifiable moment.


are you paying attentionBut if you look at data that way … well … you realize that each moment matters.


Each moment is possibly very important. And each word, image, story, factoid needs to be thoughtful and purposefully constructed as part of a larger ‘forest’ we want people to wander and inevitably to arrive at some beautiful clearing we have created just for them.


Access to data has given us the opportunity to capitalize on the most important, sometimes personal and uniquely relevant moments. Frankly, it has never been easier to find the right people or the right moments. Sure … you may have to dig into the <research estimated> over 20 trillion moments of smartphone ‘moments’ each person has each year , but, go ahead and assume 20 trillion will trend and trends can offer extraordinary insights.




Most importantly <and possibly what all those ‘big data experts’ fail to see> is that all these data points reflect … well … WHAT SOMEONE HAS CHOSEN TO PAY ATTENTION TO.



“Attention is the most important currency that anybody can give you, it’s worth more than money, possessions or things.”

Steve Rubel



Discussing data is a completely different, and complex, topic. But do not disregard data as a means to examine connections and what people pay attention to.


But let me get back to attention itself.


Google getting someone’s attention and you will get a gazillion <46,900,000 to be exact> results in less than one second.

pay attention to me wave nerd

And I have seen dozens of presentations from really smart digital market people on capturing attention.


But of everything I would have to say Ben Parr <author of Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention> caught my attention in Harvard Business Review <HBR> with a couple of deeper thoughts.


  • Capture … or … “THE capture”


Anticipation and motivation.

It fuels our desire to “want” food, sex, money or more intrinsic rewards like self-satisfaction and a sense of purpose. The prospect of capturing these things makes us pay attention.

Rewards we can touch, experience, or even just visualize have a greater impact on our attention.


I love the thought before …. and I debate the overall issue with some people on this.


sound imagery colorsFirst.


This does not mean we live in a visual world <and a visual is all that matters>.

This suggests “strategic use of visuals.”




This does not mean the visual has to be ‘beautiful.’ Many business people suggest that something beautiful is so attractive … everyone looks. I would argue that is a lazy … well … argument.




The big thought? “Capture” is at its best when tied to intrinsic rewards.




This Ben Parr guy suggests sensory cues actually direct our attention automatically. It’s a safety and survival mechanism that helps us react faster than our brains can think. Thinking about capturing someone’s attention that way permits you to think aurally, visually and any other more subtle way that plays on people’s instincts rather than just plastering some beautiful visual in front of them.



  • The Expert.


From the same HBR study the author suggests that attention increases with … well … credibility.

 answeres expert

Consumers consistently rate experts as the most trusted spokespeople, more than CEOs or celebrities. There’s a scientific reason for this: in a 2009 study, Emory University neuroeconomist Greg Berns found that the decision-making centers of our brains slow or even shut down while we are receiving advice from an expert.

This is a phenomenon Dr. Robert Cialdini calls “directed deference.” So, especially if you’re trying to capture the attention of people who don’t know you, feel free to lead with your credentials, establish your expertise and cite others who are most knowledgeable on the topic at hand.


To be clear … the use of “shut down” in this case means “filter our distractions and focus.”




Many digital experts expound upon the importance of ‘personal ‘in digital and mobile communications … but … maybe we should be thinking about establishing ‘expert’ first?


Just a thought.


All that said.


I do believe that while discussing gaining someone’s attention and the value equation it is incredibly easy to focus on one connection and one moment … the truth is that to gain someone’s attention within a multi trillion mobile connection person’s life you have to be relentless, persistent and omnipresent <because the smartphone is omnipresent in that person’s life>.


This is hard to do.




REALLY hard.


message lost in detail presentation communicate ideaMainly because to be persistent you need a shitload of content … and it needs to be relevant content <remember the credibility, the capture and the intrinsic reward opportunities I outlined above>.




This is a glorious grind.


I say a grind because … well … that is obvious. I say glorious because you are constantly seeking to create that one post, article, tweet, video, picture, whatever … that connects, converts and is remembered.

You are constantly seeking to briefly say what needs to be said … with care.


And, yeah, you have to do all this. Why? Because if there truly is 4.6 billion pieces of content created daily then you almost have to assume that most people are ignoring anything that could be construed as mediocre content.




I would suggest it all starts with the attention value equation.


While almost everything I have shared today suggests “overwhelming” the one thing I have been clear on and offers a strong central filter is the attention value equation.

All questions you may ask about relevance and interest and connection can be answered by using the value equation.


No value and whatever you are offering is useless.


This also suggests you can put “creating dialogue” on the backburner <because if you don’t gain someone’s attention in the first place and don’t actually offer some value once you do gain their attention there ain’t gonna be no dialogue>.


Create connections that are useful, likeable, memorable and shareable … and what people value. And create an overall journey in which the value equation is driven by purpose and intention <that insures no connection is wasted>.


It is easy to say in today’s world you are competing for attention. It is actually a little lazy. While living Life from the palm of your hand may create some ‘noise’ challenges … we have always had to compete for attention. In addition … as I have stated before … the whole “shorter attention span than ever” is bullshit.


Attention is attention … was yesterday, is today and will be tomorrow.


And the attention value equation is the attention value equation … it was yesterday, is today and will be tomorrow.

connect attention value business listen speak


Sometimes we forget this shit.


Most likely because our attention is caught by some stupid cat video and then we st back and think “oh, that is what needs to be done to gain someone’s attention!”


That is stupid thinking … yesterday, today and will be tomorrow.


Just keep your eye on the attention value equation and you should be good.


Enlightened Conflict