Brand Design, Brand Marketing and Brand Psychology

What the heck is Return on Attention?

Posted by sarmistha tarafder on Feb 6, 2015 2:10:00 PM

As Seth Godin rightfully puts it, "The cost of inventing, prototyping, manufacturing and especially advertising a new thing, concept, service or organization is a tiny fraction of what it used to be. In some industries, you can do it for 1% of what it used to cost."



So where does that leave you? 

Now, you realize, that all of a sudden you have 50 more competitors, all selling the same stuff, all competing for the limited attention and delivering at best, an okay product with too many features that perhaps results in mediocre benefits for your end-user. So what are you to do?

We all acknowledge that we are living in a fast changing environment. Technology has permeated the everyday life of the marketer. And, we have all come to the grasp that, marketing is no longer about "creating a myth and selling; now it's about finding a truth and sharing it.” Because, you cannot be selling a myth in a transparent, technological age where everyone is watching your every move. At the end of the day, people expect truth, transparency and real-time engagement. This puts a huge burden on marketing. But, it also helps your organization to be more open "to ways to deliver on the purpose outside the specific products you sell while at the same time being very clear about what is part of the purpose and what is outside the purpose." Above all, find a way to be relevant to your end users all the time. Google and Apple have achieved high brand capital because we engage with them all the time. It is seamleass, it is sub-conscious and it has become a part of our social psyche and our social behavior. These brands do not have to fight for our attention. They have embedded themselves in our daily doings.


Finally, this brings to my topic of attention for today.

John Hagel, management consultant from Deloitte & Touche states that the business of creating wealth is no longer about funding or innovation or about the supply chain managment. The new battle ground is the battle for human attention.

"The new scarcity = attention; there has been a profound shift in business economics from shelf space as the key scarce resource to people's time and attention."

Marketing has changed from pushing brand advertisements out to enticing and pulling brand advocates towards you. John says, you do it in 3 steps:

Attract - Design, devlop and understand the context of the need of your target audience. Then, motivate people to find you and give them some compelling reasons to do business with you.

Assist - Educate your end users. Find ways to help people, both before and after the purchase of the product. Even if that means, that you have to send business away to some one else, because their solution is a better fit than yours.

Affiliate - "Instead of one-to-one marketing, the affiliate idea suggests bringing in any and all participants that could be helpful to the prospective buyer at relevant points in time. It’s about creating a broader ecosystem of participants who can be more and more helpful to the customers you’re trying to reach.That’s a very different model that goes against the most basic assumptions of traditional push-based marketing."

Generational change and technological transmutation is the key driver for this shift.

So, what you do with this information? How do you make it for you?

For starters, know your existing customers. (For example, I am a lifer when it comes to using Adobe products. Yet, every single time, I log into Adobe cloud they are clueless as to who I am and what programs I use or better yet, I get an e-mail from them expressing my interest in their products. Sorry Adobe. Hopefully you are working towards getting better at it.)

  • Start with getting to know 20% of your clients. Who are they? What does a typical day in their life look like?

  • Do you know what products or services they consume? Do you use this information to optimize your revenue and create new revenue paths?

  • Do you engage with them on an on-going converrsation?

  • Do you connect with them to co-create new products and services?

  • And, above all what are you doing to inspire them to become your brand ambasssadors? In other words, what are you doing in acquiring and holding their attention?

"If you define your product broadly enough, in the context of how it is actually used, engagement is possible across a much wider range of interactions."

For example we are in the buisness of design and building exhibits. But, in the broader context we help our clients to market their products. We get involved in the strategy session involving pre and post show exhibiting. Infact, we help our clients develop ways to keep the conversation going even after the trade show have long ended. Now you see, we bo longer designers, builders and manufacturers, we have transfoormed ourselves into idea generators and skilled educators. (Though this is a Skyline platform, and, I usually avoid using it as a platform for our propaganda, in this case I made a conscious effort to do so, to explain engagement in a broader context.)

The digital medium allows us to gather phenomenal insights on our customers and cater tailored solutons depending on their needs. So do not wait for your customers to come to you for solutions. As hagel puts it, be the trusted advisor to them and say, “You know, I have some information about you and based on that information I can give you some recommendations that are going to be really valuable to you and save you time and money." This is yet another way of holding the attention and maximizing the tenure of your value in their eyes.

We are living in very interesting times. In an era of cross-disciplinary pollination, we are undergoing through a techtonic shift in mindset. Since, marketing is in the forefront of it, you, marketers have to be now acquainted with the new metrics.

Hagel predicts, the new ROI is no longer Return on Investment, it is Return on Information. "It’s return on information. It’s starting to track carefully how much it costs to accumulate information about a customer and divide that by what I can earn by using that information more effectively. And, the traditional Return on Assets has to be phased out by the emergence of the new player, Return on Attention. "It is the economic value of that attention, which is the value of the relationship that you can expect based on that attention."

If you have liked this piece you will love these developing trends in brand marketing.


Our job is to make change. Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go. Every time we waste that opportunity, every page or sentence that doesn’t do enough to advance the cause is waste. - See more at:


Our job is to make change. Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go. Every time we waste that opportunity, every page or sentence that doesn’t do enough to advance the cause is waste. - See more at:

Topics: Graphic Design, Brand Marketing, Trade Fair Design, Brand Perception, Sarmistha Tarafder, Marketing, Return on Attention, John Hagel

























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Sarmistha Tarafder is the co-creator of brands in 3 D spaces. Always, in pursuit of essence and enchantment, mind and mystery, myth and matter!