There's conflicting evidence on whether or not the average person's attention span is getting shorter. According to some sources, modern humans have an attention span shorter than a goldfish. But when the BBC tried to verify those claims, they couldn't find much beyond circuitous non-sources citing each other. If there's one conclusion to be made here, we're not in a whole lot of danger of personal attention deficits, just that we have options to jump between when we don't like what we're reading.
Where we do see attention spans drastically decreasing is in marketing trends. Companies can't seem to stick with one campaign or platform anymore. They hop from software to software, email service to email service, and brand to brand without ever finding out if anything was working in the first place. Companies with more public faces exemplify this by changing taglines, mascots, or ad campaigns too quickly.
It shows up in how badly Geico misjudged the popularity of one of their ad campaigns and chucked a bunch of money at a doomed sitcom. Or how every single company in the world jumped on social media almost the moment it appeared without figuring out how they should use it. Or how craft breweries and tech companies will start up just to sell out.
Now think about the marketing campaigns people actually remember. J.G. Wentworth's been assaulting our eardrums with the same shouty catchphrase for what feels like two hundred years. You could probably recite Empire Today's phone number by heart even if you've never replaced a floor in your life. God help you if you ever forget what you're supposed to do with a Kit-Kat bar or think you can get an old cereal or cigarette jingle out of your head once you've heard it.
People remember those campaigns because companies stuck with them for years. Decades even. Some were so memorable they eclipsed significant rebranding attempts. McDonald's will be associated with the Golden Arches forever, despite none of their stores actually having golden arches anymore and relegating them to the M in their logo. We haven't seen a Butterfinger commercial featuring Bart Simpson in at least a decade, but that doesn't stop us from thinking of the cartoon spokes-boy immediately. We've never smoked a cigarette, but the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel are seared into our memories like a cow brand.
We could list examples of longstanding brands and campaigns until the sun swallows the Earth, but the core point here is to stick with an idea long enough that you can reliably and accurately gauge its success. McDonald's could have torn down its arches the second week it was open because no one commented on them. Empire Today could have changed their jingle when the founder rode the bus and didn't hear anyone humming it. But they held fast to their ideas long enough for them to become cultural touchstones.
And yes, we understand we're talking about companies whose success seemed inevitable. But that's kind of the point. It's easy to dismiss anyone who argued against any of the previously mentioned campaigns as shortsighted lunatics, and plenty of people would do that. What we're saying is there are some people in marketing today who don't understand they're the modern day shortsighted lunatics. Getting a disappointingly small handful of clicks on the first edition new email newsletter isn't a sign you should abandon the newsletter, as we've seen some marketers do. It's a sign that you have a new communication tool that needs some time to establish itself.
Similarly, don't jump to the newest social media platform just because the kids are doing it. Vine was a fun idea, but it was hardly the place for any of our manufacturing or coatings clients to connect with their audience (or, apparently, anyone, since the platform famously folded). Instead, we set them up with LinkedIn, a far more industry appropriate site. They've experienced long term success there, whereas Vine would have been a waste of time and resources and their accounts would have naturally and rightfully fizzled out in a matter of days.
Have the courage to stay the course. If something new and cool shows up but you don't know exactly how it would fit into your marketing efforts, stay on the sidelines and study it. Pay attention to who's using it, what they're using it for, and how effective they are with it. If it seems like a good fit for you, by all means, try it out.
Then, if you do decide to try it, hold onto it for a while. Give it a good few months before you make any big decisions about complete adoption. If things are working out, great, you've found a brand new tool to add to your toolbox. If they're not, move on knowing you gave it an honest and long enough try that you made a well-informed decision for the good of your marketing. Either way, you're making better decisions than most companies out there right now.