Offline is going online

Offline events, face-to-face sales pitches, networking meetups, and in-person product launches, you name it, it’s either been cancelled, postponed or rescheduled. That’s one instant knock-on effect of being on “lockdown”.

But some brands have been quick to adapt and take their events online. The Marketing Meetup, for example, has done a spectacular job of pivoting and taking itself online, and landing support from marketing and advertising heavyweights, Mark Ritson (all-round rogue) and Rory Sutherland (posh bloke from Ogilvy who loves brain science). And Tom Dale from clothing brand, Dabatag, created his own 360 virtual shop to market and sell his products.

It’s not only the events that have pivoted, it’s the marketing of them too. Before corona kicked off, brands were able to market their offline events in real world places: in the Tube, in the paper, magazines, on the bus, on a billboard, at the cinema or anywhere else they knew their audience would visit or pass on their way to work and back again. But that’s gone (for now).

The audience has moved

Since we’re all working from home, we’re probably going to be on social media a lot more than we otherwise would. Or visiting websites unrelated to work far more than we would. And our attention may not be focussed on work, even when we are meant to be focussed on work. Staying safe and well is pre-occupying our minds.

For brands marketing anything – not just an event – that’s incredibly significant. If our attention isn’t physically or mentally where it was, they need to make sure they understand the nature and power of attention and distraction. Because the success of advertising – getting your message across – rests on distracting people enough that they pay attention for long enough.

What we pay attention to and why

There’s a great TEDx talk by Chris Bailey that explains why we get distracted so easily. Hint: it’s not because we have short attention spans per se. It’s because our brains have a built-in novelty bias, meaning it rewards us with a shot of dopamine – a feel-good chemical – for paying attention to what’s new and novel in our environment. And we also get a shot of dopamine for deliberately seeking out new and novel things too! We’re rewarded for seeking and consuming. 

So each time we get a “new” notification from our phones or desktop apps, our brains want to pay attention to it because it has evolved to receive and enjoy the dopamine shot for doing so – and that’s how we get distracted. Our phones are actually enabling us to self-administer dopamine.

What this means for marketers

Simple: go where your audience is, not where they were. And in this case, that means moving your offline marketing online: to social media, search engines and third-party websites.

In terms of the content of your message, that needs to bear three things in mind: i. the nature of distraction and attention, ii. the general mindset of people now – in “corona-mode” – and iii. their “social media mindset”, which is how they think and behave when they’re on social.

Hint: people are not logging on to watch your ads or posts. They’re logging on to watch what they want to watch, which means… your content has to distract them and then keep their attention. And you can do that by playing to the brain’s bias for seeking out new and novel things in the environment.

New and novel content gets attention

Whether it’s an animated explainer, animated GIF or other type of video production, the first few seconds need to demonstrate newness and novelty. Because that’s what encourages us to pay further and deeper attention. If it looks, sounds and moves in a new and novel way, it will grab attention, be more intriguing and worthy of closer attention.

In other words, your video needs to contrast with whatever other content is surrounding it. But creating a high contrast video doesn’t mean it has to be flashing, loud, garish or offensive. Unless your goal is to irritate the hell out of people. No. It just means “not identical” to the background or anything else in close proximity. Have a look at some of our portfolio of looping animations for social media and see which ones get your attention.

P.S. There are good agencies out there who can help you set up paid campaigns if you don’t already have one on board. We like working with Candour.

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