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Passive Attention: More Active Than You Think

Attention has always been important in marketing and promotion. It used to be based on demanding attention. Just watch an episode of Mad Men to get a glimpse of that mindset.

More recently it shifted to earning attention. I’m a huge advocate of shifting the attention need from demanding attention to earning attention. In a day and age when people filter most of the attempts at grabbing their attention, the best path forward is earning their coveted attention rather than demanding it and hoping you’re lucky enough to cut through the filters.

A Third Realm Of Attention
But there’s another realm of discussion when we think about attention: passive attention. It’s not something you can demand. You may or may not earn it, but think about how easily a group of people can begin generating attention for your brand on their own without your knowledge or consent. Or, perhaps more practically, think about the people who may be paying attention to aspects of your brand, service, products or experience that you’re not really focused on? That’s passive attention: attention you didn’t ask for but are getting anyway.

You may think this sounds great or it may scare you to death. Passive attention will be largely positive if your company performs well. Positive passive attention wins. But think about all the ways you may be generating negative passive attention like:

  • When your packaging is hard to open.
  • Your instructions are convoluted (or not included).
  • Your “policy” says you can’t help me.
  • Your website is confusing.
  • Your sales rep is arrogant or annoying.
  • Your client tells me she regrets hiring you.
  • Your billing system doesn’t work.
  • Your phone system tries to prevent me from talking to a real person.
  • The food is cold when it arrives at my table.
  • Your customer service rep gives me wrong information.

Negative passive attention is what you get when you fail to meet a person’s expectations or you break a promise to them. What makes this particularly dangerous for a business today is that it doesn’t take long before your customer’s 300 friends on Facebook find out about it and then a percentage of them share it with their 300 friends.

This is why there is virtually no line between the business your organization conducts and marketing.

Everything is marketing now.

Photo credit: “Around the house on a cold winters day” by davebloggs007 via Flickr.

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