Time’s up, marketers! We all know the attention span of consumers today is shorter than ever, and according to a study from Microsoft last year, even a goldfish can focus longer than the average multi-screen user. That Vine even exists—and is thriving—is further testament to this trend. Here, consumers are granting us a mere seven seconds of video to tell our story

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According to Rosetta Consulting, consumers switch platforms up to 27 times in one hour. We can probably all relate to that multi-screen approach to mastering our professional and personal to-do lists.

Marketers have a lot to say. So how do we say it all in such a short window?

The only way to cut through this noise is to be relevant. This requires a deep knowledge of what motivates customers, what keeps them coming back, and what attracts them in the first place. To snag the attention of the coveted buyer, marketers must get a couple of things right:

  • Get to the point with appealing content;
  • Make a meaningful connection;
  • Use good design to spark interest and make it stick.

Get the content right

When it comes to delivering your message, don’t over-do it. Marketers need to use each opportunity wisely, so in the spirit of creating quick “snackable moments” we should ask ourselves, what is the point? Pretty words and messaging pillars are nice, but focus on distilling that down to get to the core of the message and deliver it in a clear and concise manner.

Regardless of the audience we’re targeting, the content itself needs to be both brand appropriate and customer appropriate. The former should be part of your strategy from the onset, but understanding what makes your customer tick is where the real challenge lies.

One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is trying to fit their brilliant, visually stunning campaign ideas for one channel into another. From channel to channel what’s relevant even to that one particular individual often changes, so just because it’s quality marketing for Twitter doesn’t mean newsletter subscribers will receive it the same way. Create messages that are concise but flexible enough to adapt to the multi-channel journey your customer is on and focus on meeting their expectations at each of their destinations.

Engage in a meaningful way

Consumers are exposed to 5.3 trillion ad impressions per year, according to comScore’s most recent Digital Future in Focus report. Simply put, there is more noise than ever and consumers aren’t spending too long in any one place. In order to get (and hold) their attention, marketers today have to make a meaningful connection. This is where the massive influx of data being generated today presents a major opportunity. Using the information we have on hand about any given customer (their behaviours, preferences or purchasing history, for example) marketers have the insights to tailor messages in a way that provides value to each individual.

Marketers are doing a better job of unifying the data within their control to get a clearer picture of customers, but no system is perfect and silos within the marketing organization itself still create barriers. What the one department knows about the customer’s purchasing or clicking habits should be shared and combined with what another department knows about their engagement with social media campaigns, plus what the customer service department knows about their past complaints around return shipping fees, for example. Uniting this data will be the key to crafting messaging that resonate.

The next phase of building a 360-degree view of an individual is to close the gap between these “owned” interactions with our brand and the customer’s interactions with channels we don’t own.

As with any communication, before pressing “send” on that next campaign ask yourself, what are we providing of value? Have we really listened to what the customer wants, or are we throwing everything we’ve got to see what sticks?

Be visual

It’s not an earth-shattering concept, but consumers are attracted to visually pleasing ads and content. Marketers in general are almost forced to become more visual in their creative materials today. This means beautiful photography, clean graphic design and the works. But beyond the obvious visuals we use to convey our messages, it’s time to start thinking about the design of language itself and how consumers are viewing the text on their screens. Even Twitter, which was created to promote digestible text-only updates, has evolved to be as visual as nearly any other social channel.

We no longer have to edit text solely based on how it tells our story, but also on how it pops on a screen or in a tweet. Now more than ever we have to be crisp, clear and descriptive in the messages we share and in the visual nature of the words themselves we’re using to engage online.

At the end of the day, there is no excuse for bad design. This isn’t to say every campaign will be an award winner, but today’s savvy consumers are exposed to so much high-quality design, that they not only notice bad design but find it inexcusable. Outdated, sloppy, generic or cheap content won’t stand a chance with multi-screen consumers. Marketers will need to hold themselves to the same high standards as consumers do today if they’re planning to spend those precious few seconds with a buyer.

So use your data. Use those customer insights. Know what the individual want—how, where and when.

As for creative messaging and design, spend the time to make it tight. Meaningful. Beautiful. Unforgettable.

Nike didn’t come out and say, “Simply initiate the process.”

Instead, they gave us “Just do it.”


This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of Direct Marketing.

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Jenne Barbour

Jenne Barbour is the director of global marketing strategy + evangelism for Teradata Marketing Applications (www.teradata.com).