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consumer attention span

"Attention Span" cartoon
In 2000, the attention span of the modern consumer was 12 seconds. It’s now 8 seconds. The average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds.

Marketers are in the business of trying to catch (and hold) people’s attentions. That has always been a challenge. But it’s only getting harder.

Thus the the trend toward “snackable content”, a marketing buzzword for breaking marketing communication into really small engaging pieces. The rise of infographics and of videos that can fit into a 6-second Vine are part of this trend. Marketers are experimenting with a lot of ways to produce short attention span theatre.

But I don’t think “snackable content” is just about brevity. What sometimes gets overlooked is the importance of taking a serial approach to content. Rather than an isolated one-off (like an infographic), I think that content should be thought of as mini-series, where each piece may be bite-sized, but over time, there’s a common thread. If the content is good enough, people look forward to the next installment.

My favorite example of this is still Oreo’s 100-day “Daily Twist” campaign from two years ago. To celebrate Oreo’s 100th anniversary, Oreo released a new image every day combining an image of their cookie with a spin on pop culture, from Gay Pride to Elvis Week to the anniversary of Pong. Leave it to a snack brand to nail snackable content.

This is one of the things I love about the medium of cartoons. Our content marketing studio has been working on a fun project with Google to help introduce a new book from Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. We parsed out 15 of the top insights from their book, How Google Works, and then illustrated them in cartoons that they shared, two a week, leading up to the book launch.

Cartoons have always have a serial dimension to them (Peanuts ran daily for 50 years). But I think that the “serial” dimension can extend to any form of content.

As marketers, we can’t fight the incredibly shrinking consumer attention span. It just forces us to get better at telling our story, and connecting with our audiences in ways that matter to them.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed cartoon print. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)


Tom Fishburne: Marketoonist