Part 1: The Race for Attention
The room was packed.
We’re visiting the 33rd floor of the building that housed one of the top agencies in the country. A small crowd of advertisers and analysts is gathered around the meeting table.
They had come to learn about how our analytics are helping other companies measure their content marketing efforts. I opened by stating that for our solution to work, you first need to define clear online events as your goals.
A few slides into the presentation, a hand was slowly raised at the back. A young marketer, quietly asked “ah hmm… but what if we don’t have online events as goals?” She explained that for many of their activities, they don’t have a tangible goal or clearly defined event that can be measured.
Our solution was built with mostly B2B or e-commerce companies in mind: Companies with very clear marketing objectives like generating leads or online sales. As the meeting went on, 2 things became apparent: 1 – that despite their growing investments in content marketing, they were struggling to define a clear methodology or measurable outcomes. And 2 – that our current solution, which relayed on tracking clear events, was just not relevant.
Dismayed, we went back to the drawing board.
Attention in the Post-disruption Age
Before we could start thinking about how to measure success in brand-oriented online content marketing activities, we first had to better understand the why. What are they really looking to get out of these efforts? It was clear that we needed a better perspective.
Brands, together with ad agencies, have been mastering the art of capturing attention for over a century. In his great book, The Attention Merchants, Tim Wu explains the evolution of the advertising industry and the techniques they use to capture their audience.
Brands have traditionally harvested attention through disruption. Until recently, our attention could be easily devoted to a few specific channels (TV, radio, print, and even early websites). Back then, harvesting attention through disruptive ads, was incredibly effective. To measure their impact, brands would use brand lift surveys to guesstimate the effect of those activities.
Disruption is no longer an option
Fast forward to 2017 – In today’s hyper-saturated information environments, gaining attention using disruptive strategies has become increasingly harder and less effective. This is particularly true with younger audiences. We have an almost complete control over our media diet, and interruption by brands is not a part of it (unlike interruption by our social channels which we still largely allow).
To stay relevant, brands today find themselves scrambling to create new paths to people’s attention. They are now understanding that to achieve that, they must produce content that will be willingly consumed – even desired – by their audiences. Content that doesn’t interrupt, but rather interacts and enriches their experience. Content marketing has proved it can be an effective way not only for capturing people’s attention but also for captivating them.
But how do you actually measure people’s attention?
This is part one of a 3-part story. Click here for part 2.