Quality Attention – The One Thing Vanity Metrics Can’t Win You

How many clicks? How many likes? How many shares?

You’ve heard those questions asked; maybe you even ask them yourself as you try to understand if your marketing is “working.”

Not only are you asking the wrong questions; this compulsion to collect vanity metrics could be actively detracting from your desired outcome, says Janice Denegri-Knott.

Denegri-Knott was the lead researcher on a report created by Bournemouth University and PHD Media for Magnetic called “Attention Please.” 

The researchers set out to answer some key questions about our increasingly self-disrupting habits, to help advertisers and marketers understand the links between attention and human nature, and how this impacts advertising effectiveness in this age of disruptive media.

“Quality attention is linked to intentions and goals, and is often connected to the completion of projects or long-term pursuits,” Denegri-Knott said in an interview with Print Power. “Think learning how to play an instrument or reducing your carbon footprint. Interruptive attention, meanwhile, actively distracts from these same projects and pursuits.”

“In marketing, attention grabbing strategies negatively impact the consumer’s ability to attain their own goals, be they spending time with family or losing weight,” she continues. “Interruptions negatively affect productivity and wellbeing, hindering us from doing what we want to do or becoming who we want to be.

“Clearly then, not all attention is positive for advertisers and agencies. And indeed some forms of attention actively detract from the desired outcome,” she notes.

Quality attention, the data shows, is more likely to come from “non-digital media like cinema, magazines and newspapers, for example. We also found that because these channels are actively sought after, they are less prone to avoidance or divided attention,” Denegri-Knott continues.

The takeaway? Creating content for the “like” or the “share” could be backfiring. Consumers are getting really good at ignoring, blocking, even reporting digital content. Instead, it’s time to return to strategic marketing plans that make the best use of a mix of media.

As Kevin Kelly (2008), founder of Wired Magazine notes in the report, “The only way to win customers in the attention economy is to make something worth paying attention to. People don’t respond to facts about how your product will fill a practical need, they respond to stories about how it will fulfill a personal desire.”

As marketers, we are living through a crisis of consumer attention. We need to stop relying on digital alone to deliver the kind of engagement that leads to solid customer growth. We’ve been preaching this for a while now. And the report does a great job of synthesizing the mounds of research out there supporting the value of print magazine content and ads. The fact is, consumers still have the attention span to engage with content they find valuable. The digital wasteland is forcing us to put more energy into focusing on what we find important. This is the moment when consumers are ready and waiting for brands to engage in ways we find truly meaningful.