Changes in society, technology and culture are having greater, more pronounced impacts on consumer behaviour than ever before. Recent trend and consumer events we’ve attended here and in the UK have highlighted the most prominent of these changes, and over the course of this insight series, our team are going to unpack some of these trends in more detail, looking at the impact we see them having on brands in the coming years. Today, our Planning & Insights Director, Róisín, takes a look at how our attention is becoming harder and harder to grab and hold.
Life has become so fast – constantly moving and changing, with something new to see, learn, absorb every single minute of every day. The world we are living in is a constant stream of content, and has become so busy and full of distraction, that the ability to focus in work and in life is slowly starting to erode. This was one of the key themes discussed at The Future Laboratory’s Trend Briefing in London earlier this year – attention is fast becoming a very valuable resource – one that is very difficult to capture.
It’s something I’ve been noticing for quite a while – the all too common rhetoric that smartphone addiction is on the rise, people complaining that they can’t concentrate in work, and social media browsing eating up a huge portion of our time. A quick online search shows numerous academic studies and industry reports looking at technology and distraction – apparently we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish, according to a 2015 Canadian study by Microsoft. When you compare what we need to get done in one day versus a goldfish, it’s quite a scary thought.
Even as I write this, I have had to fight the urge to check emails more than once (I failed the last battle because the knowledge that I had 10 emails waiting became too distracting). More and more we are being bombarded with content and messaging, and it begs the question – what part are brands playing in this age of distraction…
and how can we as brand creators and communicators, play our part in calming the chaos?
The rise of data capture, targeted messaging and programmatic marketing has been staggering in the last 5 years – technology has enabled brands to directly target people like never before, and Big Data will only amplify this. But when does it become too much?This summer, I purchased something for the first time on Etsy. In the following 2 weeks, I received a new communication from them nearly every day – sometimes twice daily – each one with a new offer. In total I had over 20 emails in 2 weeks. 20 emails. In 2 weeks. Fine if my inbox was reserved for Etsy – but of course it isn’t, and those mails simply got lost in the white noise.
The fact is, we all interact with brands on a daily basis, and if every brand is on interaction overload, the chances of us engaging with or even noticing them, are becoming more and more slim. It is not enough for brands to claim ignorance and continue with communication practices that could be seen as borderline harassment, just because the receiver hasn’t clicked ‘unsubscribe’. It is incumbent on them to know their audiences and to interact with them in a smarter, less obtrusive and more respectful way.
Our role as brand consultants becomes even more important in this capacity. We need to have a deeper understanding of how people and society are evolving, so that we can create brands and communications that complement and enhance their lives – not ones that add to the noise. This is true for everything from brand design and communications through to packaging design. With packaging, we need to think beyond the fixture, and understand that we are dealing with a Twitter mentality, where a brand needs to be capable of communicating at a glance. And with communications, we need to be respectful of our consumers, and communicate with them in a way that works for us and for them.
Times are a changing, but it’s a positive thing – an opportunity for all of us to stop, take stock of our brand behaviour and think differently.
Bring it on, I say!