In 1971, before the public Internet was even a gleam in Al Gore’s eyes, Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon predicted with regard to the coming of the mass Internet, “What information consumes is the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
Simon’s conjecture came at a time when most scholars thought opening the web to all would bring about not much more than email and reference reading. Even the most gifted intellectuals and engineers could not have imagined Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, Twitter or FarmersOnly.com.
So here we are, 16 years into the information century and there is nearly an entire generation that has grown up with the 'net while showing signs of severe attention deficit.
Last year, Microsoft Canada published a study on attention spans and consumer insights. Although all of the stats were compiled about Canadians, those living up there in America’s Hat really aren’t any different from folks who call most any industrialized country home, so they are likely valid for the U.S. as well.
The study opens with a quote from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
“We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it is now almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.”
Then comes the red meat. In 2013, when the study was conducted, most Millennials (and even some older people who are digitally addicted) have an attention span of eight seconds, about as long as it takes to read a 140 character tweet and one second less than that of — wait for it — a goldfish.
How Do You Reach Millennials?
There are nearly as many recent studies of Millennial attention span on the Internet as there are kitten videos on YouTube. Most of them discuss attention spans. You’d think by now we would know all this and be well on our way to either combat or take advantage of the situation.
How do custom integrators — plus their vendors, distributors, buying groups and trade associations — get to this elusive generation that has less of an attention span than a goldfish, takes us for granted technologically and comparison shops us to the cliff of bankruptcy?
The Microsoft Canada study went deep into the permafrost (up there in America’s Hat there are no weeds, just permafrost) using individual neurological testing including electroencephalographs (EEG) to determine some of their conclusions on how to reach this bunch.
“The thrill of finding something new often makes connected consumers jump off one experience into another. The 'feel good' neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released when consumers are doing something they find rewarding. That said, nearly one in five of online viewers defect in the first 10 seconds.”
And how does a marketer prevent that defection?
“Get your message across, right out of the gate. They lose interest, fast. They’re suckers for novelty. It's more exciting to jump from subject to subject or device to device than to concentrate on a single thing at any one time. Hook them right off the bat with clear and concise messaging that’s communicated as early as possible.”
The study’s authors then show storyboards of Canadian TV commercials that we’ll never see. In the U.S. CE industry I can think of only two commercials that live up to Microsoft’s standard: the old Sonos spot that lights each room in a different color while the music gets louder and the current Ring.com spot where the thugs run off the porch.
Writing in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Kristin Kelley, manager of strategic marketing and communications for international employment specialist Ramstad North America, concisely lists the takeaways she gleaned from the Microsoft Canada study.
- Short video snippets to tease them. In the Snapchat age, a lot can happen in just a few seconds.
- Bold, attention grabbing headlines to persuade them. Tabloids have been using this tactic successfully, for decades.
- Plenty of opt-in options so they can engage with you on their terms. Offer them something compelling that has real value.
Kelley concludes with the best quote I read while researching this piece, “The point is … you need to wow them before you can win them.”
If we wait for the vendors to do something for us in this arena, I suspect we’re in for a mighty long wait. That said, there are things that integrators large and small can do for relatively short money to catch a Millennial’s attention.
Make a Video
Put your projects portfolio scrapbook away in your desk drawer and start making videos of your accomplishments. And make the customers the stars. This might mean having a competent, if not professional, videographer on retainer to be at the site on significant days as the project moves forward.
Get your clients involved in the action. Make sure the crew members are decked out in their cleanest polos and jeans and make them a part of the production.
Have these videos on a loop in your reception/waiting area and in the demo rooms. Of course, keep copies on your laptop and tablet for showing in a prospect’s home.
Host a Party
Plan and promote a major “in-store” event. Make it exciting. Have not only those testimonial videos ready but the best videos that vendors may offer as well.
Everyone who markets to Millennials emphasizes that “Content is King.” If the vendor video is boring, overly out in the weeds or just poorly produced — don’t use it. Get vendors to come and speak but use the same criteria as you would for the videos. If they can’t capture an audience, don’t invite them.
Do some research to find a trendy eatery to cater this. No toothpicks of cheese and cocktail wieners on a plastic platter straight from Costco. Put someone in charge of the food or even hire a pro.
This entire event will (and should) take months to plan and execute properly. Tease it from your website and all your other social media platforms — i.e., “Save the Date.”
Ask for Feedback
Put a Customer Feedback and Review section on your site and your other platforms.
Risky you say? Not if you’re confident that you’re good at what you do.
Get involved with virtual reality. Imagine having a client don a pair of VR goggles and see what you plan for them in real time three-dimensionality. It’s already being tested by upscale architects and realtors.
This is too compelling a breakthrough technology — new to Millennials as well as Boomers — not to command attention that’s relevant to our business. You can be on the cutting edge today.
Offer value propositions that are outside our industry as both calls-to-action and rewards.
The CI business doesn’t lend itself very well to promotions that work in other businesses like “Free Oil Changes for Life with the Purchase of a New Car.” And many pundits feel that “free installation” by the big boxes hastened the demise of the small independent car stereo shops that chose to match or promote that offer. So that’s probably not a good option either.
Free headphones? Meh. Think outside not only the box but the business.
For example, many Millennials fancy themselves as “foodies” (heck, they take pictures of their food). A certificate from trendy gourmet cook-at-home companies like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated will run you less dough (pun intended) than a specific dollar amount restaurant gift card while making you look a lot hipper in the Gen Y’s eyes. Use them for any good purpose.
This is just a start. These tips should give you some food for thought (I know, I know, sometimes I just can’t stop) and keep you busy for a while. Build on these concepts. Make them uniquely your own.
Ask the Industry
At the same time, we should all start engaging the vendors, distributors and buying groups (plus CEDIA — for members) on how they plan to help capture the attention of the largest generation in the history of mankind.
There is little time to waste.
Eight … seven … six … five … four … three … two … one … click … poof…
Oh look at these kittens! Aren't they just adorable?