What bears and goldfish can tell us about better marketing

Cute Panda wears sunglasses in the beach

Some things change over time, but great stories will always catch my attention.  

There’s a John Candy movie I love – it has a great scene with a bear story that’s a favorite of mine. Last week, I talked my daughters into watching it with me. Although the bear story scene was as great as ever, it took a while to get there, longer than I remembered.

The Great Outdoors was released in 1988. That’s before the world wide web. Before IMs. Before social media. Before videos became mainstream. A lot has changed in 35 years. Today, we live in a mobile, digital world. Not only do we face a constant onslaught of information competing for our attention, we’re used to rapid-fire delivery.

One casualty all marketers are familiar with is a marked decline in attention spans. You may be familiar with the idea that studies show people’s attention spans have dropped to 8 seconds – less than a goldfish!

Others have countered that it’s not attention spans that have dropped – after all, people line up for marathon showings of Indiana Jones movies, or binge watch Ted Lasso for hours at a time. It’s consideration spans that have dropped. Before committing more time, people need to understand the potential benefit, especially given a world of alternatives. If what you offer is appealing, they’ll find the time.

8 second attention spans or not, one thing is clear. As marketers, we are working harder than ever to get, and keep, attention. More and more of my clients are looking for snackable content. They want messaging, design, and vehicles that deliver quickly. Content that drives action and interest in the full story of what they are trying to communicate.

My advice – lead with a great hook. You don’t need to fear making in-depth content, but you’d better make sure the first few seconds are incredible. You want to tell a good story, but tell it quickly. People have to know what they’re going to get out of it. You need to immediately entertain them, solve a problem, or provide value. Then,  provide the follow up content where they can dig deeper.

Your hook can change from persona to persona. In the B2B world, the way to attract procurement might be different from how you connect with a BDM or TDM. Even if the next level of content is the same, the path to get there could (and likely should) be different. So, create different content based on the personas. To do this, you need to really take the time to truly understand your customer. What do they care about? What’s in it for them?

Testing is your friend here. Figuring out what works…and then figuring out what works great.

One last point, quick doesn’t equal fast. By that, I mean it can take time (and budget) to create a finely polished ‘diamond’ hook. Creating, say, a 15 second video that connects with customers, tells a story, and has a vision takes more editing. More rounds of script review. More design time. But if you don’t have that hook to get them in initially, your target audience may never get to the longer content.

So don’t be afraid of spending time and effort. I think you’ll find it’s worth it.

Now, I’m guessing some of you are still thinking about that John Candy scene I referenced earlier. (Bonus: Dan Ackroyd is in there too!)  I’ll save you from the search – here’s the link. Enjoy!

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