Pay attention. It’s worth more than money.

Discover what the ‘attention economy’ means for your marketing.

Since Herbert A. Simon was credited with articulating the concept of ‘attention economics’ as long ago as 1971, is business finally catching up?

Marketing theorists describe attention as ‘focused mental engagement.’ 1

Which simply means being drawn to one piece of information at a time. Without distraction.

Think about it. One piece of information amongst a daily deluge of up to 10,000 marketing messages, 300 pieces of social media content and as many as 1,000 clickable links. 2

So how does attention relate to economics?

Simply put, the more people pay attention to you, the more likely they are to buy from you.

And the more effective your marketing budget becomes.

Search for the topic online and you’ll find an inordinate amount of confusing intangibles: attention transactions, attention property rights, findability strategies and continuous partial attention states.

Have people become hypnotised by complexity and lost their ability to think?

Attention has become a valuable commodity to marketers. Plans to create the buying and selling of attention already exist. Consumers could sell ‘interrupt rights’—small fees for the right to ask for their attention.3 ‘Attention bonds’—an idea that provides warranties that certain information won’t be wasting a recipient’s time. 4

In the end, they’re all vying for the same thing.

The precious time of their audience.

How focusing on attention affects communication design

Too many marketers and designers believe that branded content or stylish execution is all it takes to engage with their audience.

Their focus remains on delivering more and more information to people.

The problem is that the amount of information is inversely proportionate to the amount of attention.

Smart brands do less but are more effective in the attention stakes.

When Felix Baumgartner leapt from a helium balloon 24 miles above the Earth’s surface in 2012, he gained the attention of the whole world.

Baumgartner broke the sound barrier on his descent reaching a speed of 843.6mph (Mach 1.25).

But what made the most noise was the attention that the event gained for its sponsor, Red Bull.

9.5 million people watched the event live on YouTube – a record in itself.

When Apple launched its Macintosh computer in 1984, it spent its entire marketing budget on one blockbuster three-minute TV commercial.

It aired only once – during the interval of the US Superbowl. The ad was so successful that it’s used in marketing education and is still talked about to this day.

Guess which brand is 2017’s most valuable in the world (for seven years in a row)?

Apple. Valued at $170 billion. 5

So what does attention cost you?

In the UK each year £18.4 billion is spent on advertising and marketing.

Of that, 4% is remembered positively, 7% is remembered negatively and 89% isn’t noticed or remembered at all.

Marketers will invariably concentrate their subsequent effort on the percentage that’s remembered negatively.

Instead of the 89% that wasn’t even noticed. 89% that gained zero attention.

That’s £79 billion worth of useless communication.

Maybe by now the term ‘attention economy’ is starting to make sense.

Fail to grab the attention of people visiting your website, your email or your banner and you’re contributing to the 89%.

It’s really costing you.

Perhaps marketers and designers need to reconsider where attention, and ‘impact’, sit within their list of priorities.
Less focus on outcomes and style will, in the end, pay dividends.

If you’re concerned that your marketing spend might be disappearing into the zero-attention space, call us now for an informal chat.

Rowan (Creative Marketing) Ltd.
Think. Design. Deliver.
01829 771772


  • 1 Davenport & Beck, 2001
  • 2 Shea Bennett, Adweek
  • 3 Fahlman
  • 4 Loder, Van Alstyne & Walsh
  • 5 Forbes, 2017