Lots of companies use interesting and attention-getting ads with the brand name or major takeaway buried somewhere in the ad—completely divorced from the attention-getting element. So what happens? Consumers remember this great ad, but for the life of them have no idea what it was for or who it was by. This is a huge waste of resources.

If we are dealing with a familiar product and we have a familiar message, maybe consumers can attend briefly to our message and brand name while they are doing something else. They can divide their attention because the ad and message are familiar and well-known. This is what reminder advertising is all about.

But if we have a new brand, a new message, or something complicated to say, consumers won't possibly be able to attend to this message while simultaneously undertaking the complexities of a stressful, multitasking, interruption-filled environment.

Does this mean we can't develop new or complicated messages? No, it just means that we have to be all the more careful about making consumers attend to the right things, and we have to make sure that our message is interesting enough to have them put aside something else and think about us alone.

What attracts and sustains attention?

Psychologists and marketing academics have learned important lessons about what attracts and sustains attention. We list some of them here. Think about them as a checklist for developing your ad, email promotion, or Web site. They will help you make your marketing effort interesting and attractive for the right reasons.

On a very broad level, things attract attention if they are personally relevant, pleasant, surprising, or easy to process. There are a lot of ways we can achieve these things, as explained below.

Is it personally relevant?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Debbie MacInnis

Dr. Deborah J. MacInnis is the Charles L. and Ramona I. Hilliard Professor of Business Administration at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, and the co-author of Brand Admiration: Build a Business People Love. She has consulted with companies and the government in the areas of consumer behavior and branding. She is Theory Development Editor at the Journal of Marketing, and former Co-Editor of the Journal of Consumer Research. Professor MacInnis has served as President of the Association for Consumer Research and Vice President of Conferences and Research for the American Marketing Association's Academic Council. She has received the Journal of Marketing's Alpha Kappa Psi and Maynard Awards for the papers that make the greatest contribution to marketing thought. She is the co-author of a leading textbook on consumer behavior and is co-editor of several edited volumes on branding.