In the words of the great Annie Dillard, we all want waking; and in a digital world, sh*t is loud, and congested. Golden content is given the same equal opportunity to get found as gaudy political merchandise. In light of this, inspiring victory over apathy (let alone convincing someone to buy whatever your selling) can be downright defeating. I mean, have you seen all the series you can binge watch on Neflix lately?

cards spades thingsHere’s something that shouldn’t be surprising at all: we can’t stay focused. Like, as a culture we are an easily distractable lot. Or maybe better put, we’re doing our best to keep up in a digital world that is becoming larger every year. In an interview with Jason Silva, author Stephen Kotler explains the sheer overwhelm we’re dealing with every day. He says that within the course of one day, we encounter and consume 400 billion bits of information. And our brains, though they’re trying their best, can only process 40 bits of information per second. Yikes, right? I’m no mathematician but that sounds like a huge deficit for team human.

In 2013, the company Chartbeat conducted a study about how people read online and found ot some pretty interesting stuff:

  • 8 out of 10 people will only read your headlines
  • Of those 2 people that click, 38% of them will leave without scrolling down the page
  • Most visitors do not read more than 50% of an article before sharing it with their networks

So, in an effort to cut through the noise, marketers get wise to some useful information that moves people to action. Big brands pay big bucks to conduct studies so they can understand what helps people process information in an action-oriented way. Psychological tricks, for example, such as drawing on that FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that keeps us glued to our phones and constantly refreshing our screens. Case and point, this first sentence from an article written by Robert Rose on Coca-Cola's 2020 Project:

“If you haven’t already seen the overview of Coca Cola’s Content 2020 Project on YouTube, stop reading this right now, and go spend the 18 minutes. If you’re at all interested in how content is going to reshape the strategic marketing process, this is quite simply, a manifesto.”

Is it unfair that they use this information for dishonorable means? Yes. But does it make the information itself abhorrent or of questionable moral substance?  We don’t think so. If your strategy is directed toward a meaningful end and underscored by the deep and honorable why of your business; the reason you feel your product or service would help people in some way, what’s so dishonorable? To throw it on over to Shakespeare, “there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

What our team needs to consistently help people understand is what we mean when we talk about marketing: because as Jerry McLaughlan, co-founder and CEO of says, “as [language] usage evolves, definitions become unmoored, and different people start using the same word to mean entirely different things.” The tool itself that we're talking about here is neutral. But! Are some strategies under its umbrella super manipulative? Well that's worth another conversation, absoultely. The truth is often a complex machine, isn't it?

When we fail to call a spade a spade because we don’t like the way people perceive that word, we miss an important opportunity for clarification. When we resist including a call to action in a social media post because it makes us feel kinda queasy that the perception might seem a little self-serving, we miss a chance, too. In a loud world, we need to direct people somewhere. Give them a frame of how we want them to receive information and what we want them to do with it. Take this amazing campaign from Unicef Sweden, for example:Unicef Sweden

Author Dan Pink distinguishes between 2 kinds of salesman: one that works from a sense of irritation, that tries to get us to buy what he wants us to buy. Hello, used car salesman?! But then there’s the other guy: the one who tries to agitate the consumer (in other words, inspire) them to buy into the product or idea or whatever that they want to buy... and that's an admirable thing. So! If you're an agitator, go forth, and agitate, we say; and use all the damn tools in the toolbox to get that job done. 

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