As we examined in Part 1 of this series, the internet disrupted the attention economy in ways no one could have predicted.
The consequence: everyone is competing against everything for your attention. This makes attention the world’s scarcest and most valuable resource. It’s the prize everyone is after.
The advent of the internet revolutionized the attention-competition. But what happened when the front of the global attention war was moved from your desktop to the palm of your hand?
Enter the age of the smartphone. Each of us carries around a pocket-sized supercomputer that grants instantaneous access to the entire lexicon of human knowledge. Our smartphones provide 24-hour access to anything we want to read, watch, listen to, learn about, or purchase.
Our phones give companies a direct portal to our eyeballs—any time, any place. Consider the implications of this new reality on the companies competing for our attention. Now, the competition never ends.
Competition used to be limited to “direct competitors” within a single market—and the internet burned that idea to the ground. But that was only the first step in the digital revolution that upended the attention economy. While the internet radically transformed the nature of competition, smartphones forever altered the nature of attention itself.
The way we consume content is changing.
Since the introduction of smartphones, online engagement patterns have been rapidly evolving. The thumb-swipe is ubiquitous and impulsive. It’s almost incessant. We scroll nonstop as our eyes flit through content, images, headlines, and calls-to-action for the rare message powerful enough to still our thumbs, steady our eyes, and focus our attention.
The truth is, we’re distracted.
One of the most monumental changes to the attention economy is the fact that we’re now engaging with most content while doing something else.
This is the natural consequence of navigating the web on our smartphones. We impulse buy a new pair of oxblood wingtips in the six minutes it takes for our Uber to arrive. We sell FAANG stocks while we’re waiting in the dentist’s office.
We book a summer flight to Santorini while our waiter refills our Diet Coke. We donate $50 to build a well in Burkina Faso as we swipe through our Facebook feed. We add a pint of Cherry Garcia to our Amazon Pantry cart at 2:00 a.m., tucked into bed but still glued to our phones.
Everything you know about marketing is wrong.
Everything about the attention economy has been violently overturned in the last few years. Yet, marketing “best practices” haven’t remotely caught on. Everything you’ve been taught about competition and attention is based on a model that was obliterated in the digital revolution. Nothing about traditional marketing practices applies in this brave new digital frontier.
None of it.
Listening to a traditional marketing agency talk about digital engagement is like listening to a medieval plague doctor explaining how to perform a retro-sigmoid craniotomy.
All their insights amount to the digital equivalent of rubbing arsenic in a festering wound or beating demons out of the infirm with a walking stick. They’re doing the best they can with the knowledge they have—but it is tragically out of date.
The problem is, these woefully outdated assumptions about how competition and attention function are so ingrained in the collective marketing psyche that most people are unable to even examine their preconceptions.
This is why most traditional (archaic, obsolete, irrelevant) marketing agencies produce abysmal results.
It’s why smart companies see digital engagement as thousands of times more efficient than traditional methods—but 99% of companies shrug off digital as an impossible-to-solve riddle.
We’ve cracked the code. You simply need to begin with the right set of assumptions. It all begins with what you believe about competition and attention.
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