The battle for earth’s scarcest resource—attention—rages.
As we covered in previous posts, the war for attention is global and relentless. It is fought by countless millions of companies, organizations, and individuals spanning every industry and ideology on earth. It is a war fought on every front—tv, movies, video games, radio, billboards, newspapers, magazines… and smartphones.
At every moment, we are bombarded with attention-seeking missiles, laser-guided by algorithms engineered to exploit our secret fears and desires with military precision.
This Attention World War is dominated by multi-billion-dollar global superpowers. Facebook. Amazon. Apple. Netflix. Google. YouTube. Instagram. CNN. Fox. Disney. The list goes on.
If you’re reading this, you don’t control the marketing army of a global superpower.
Your little band of world-changers is out-numbered and out-resourced by every account. And you’re surrounded on all sides. But it doesn’t mean you’ve lost… yet. If the long and gruesome history of war teaches us one thing, it’s that the big guy doesn’t always win. What you need is asymmetric warfare.
But, is it really a war?
Some of our clients are dedicated to making the world a more compassionate place. Their missions are driven by grace and generosity. Their view of the world is hopeful and glimmering with potential. Is it still fitting to describe their struggle for mind-share in the grisly terms of war?
There is no other way to put it.
War is strategy. War is risk. War is innovation, the fuel for technological achievement. War narrows focus, unites allies, and brings objectives into perfect clarity. War is wagering everything for something worth defending. And war carries the ultimate consequences.
Profits. Employees. Families who rely on you. Your product, service, or mission. Whether you’re selling custom leather book covers or trying to provide a village in Nairobi with their first-ever drink of pure, clean water… something important is at stake.
You are flanked by opponents who will steal your most precious resource. Every ounce of attention they win is a loss you suffer.
in choosing your allies.
It doesn’t matter if you pool resources or pursue the same mission—if someone is taking eyes off your logo, your website, or your call-to-action, they’re not your ally.
Does someone do the same thing as you? Competitor.
Do they reach the same audience as you? Enemy.
A lot of naive but well-intentioned organizations look for friends and partners among the bandits raiding their camp. Then their finances bleed out and reality sets in. The truth is, attention is a zero-sum game and everything is on the line. That’s why this is a war.
Yes, you’re competing against companies and organizations who can outspend you by billions and who command marketing teams a hundred times the size of your business.
And no, you don’t have a prayer of beating them in an all-out frontal assault. If you do everything your competitors do, your defeat will be swift and final. Millions of competitors can simply outbid you in everything you do, if all you have to offer is the same strategies as them.
Your only hope is asymmetric warfare. You need to think like a ragtag group of revolutionaries overthrowing their oppressors. You need to imagine you’re a tiny nation with a proud and rich heritage, surrounded by enemies who want to obliterate you from history. You need a guerilla mindset.
You win every battle you engage in, and you avoid every battle you would lose. You compete only on terrain where you have a decisive advantage. You invest only in the strategies, resources, and people who bring you the exact victories you’ve mapped out in advance. You will win the attention war by being better at one thing and one thing only: strategy. And you never, ever stop.
In the attention war, the day you relax is the day you die.
In the asymmetric war for attention, you’re not looking for a final, decisive victory. You’re looking for the day’s spoils of war.
The next blog in this series will provide three asymmetric warfare strategies you can immediately implement. Right now, your first challenge is to embrace the idea of asymmetric warfare. You’re in a war for attention, and you can win it.
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