02
Oct
09

Attention All Divas (Do I Make Myself Clear?)

[October 2, 2009]

These days you can’t throw a stick without finding someone who thinks our attention span is at an all-time low. While I’m willing to assume this statement is based on scientific data, I suspect that most people who believe it are simply responding to current fashion trends.

After all, how much sexier is it to say “I just don’t have time for that,” than to shut off your iPhone and focus? In our collective heart-of-hearts, most people would rather be known as a diva—someone too busy and bothered and “into it” to sit still and give something their full attention.

But whether we’re talking about scientific fact or cultural artifact, it’s clear your user’s attention span is one thing you must take into account. What’s not clear is how to deal with this insight. How you define the solution depends on how you define “clarity” itself.

On one level, clarity is about directness. Most people would agree that the headline:

Get This Now, it’s Good!

…is very direct. It’s brief, it has a call-to-action and it uses everyday language. But is it enough to grab—and hold—a diva’s attention?

Well, maybe, if the graphic environment it sits in is astonishingly fresh. Of course, that would depend on what “This” and “it’s” refer to. My model headline makes a clear statement, but about what? Is “This” a sports car, a dustmop, a plasma TV or box of adult diapers?

The other problem is with the word “Good,” which, second to “Bad,” is the most relative value of all. In this context, it’s simply an empty claim—and no one will stop downloading Beyoncé to read that. So, I guess I should make my headline more specific:

“This Amazing Carpet Cleaner Removes Tough Blood Stains Fast
(Try it Absolutely Free for 30 Days)!”

Now users will know what I’m talking about—but I’ve painted myself into a corner. While I’ve articulated a key product benefit, I’ve limited its appeal to people who slaughter chickens in the living room.

Defining “clarity” is even harder when we move from words intended to sell a product, to Copy intended to promote a brand. That’s because brands typically have a longer lifecycle than your average Limited Time Offer. When we read “Coca-Cola: Open Happiness,” we tap into something that goes a lot deeper than a bulleted list of product benefits.

In fact, what gives a brand staying power is its ability to have a memorable impact on our lives. Coke is Coke because millions of Americans associate it with good times, family values and wholesome fun.

That didn’t happen over night and certainly not in “5 seconds.” It happened over years, the end result of consistent, long-range planning. Yet, Coke’s value message is so clear, even the busiest divas know it by heart.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY

m.laporta@verizon.net
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