Branding as a shortcut to capture attention

Through my blog about “Attention Merchants“, I came in touch with Faris Yakob. A cool dude with a background in advertising. A bit of a thinker too.

Paid attention, innovative advertising for a digital world

He wrote a cracking book called “Paid attention, innovative advertising for a digital world”. It has everything. How can you not like a book that quotes from Douglas Adams, Neil Stephenson, Shirky, Peters, Klein, Gladwell, Pine, the Simpsons, the Heath brother, Godin Toffler and many others?

Attention economy

I have heard the phrase “attention economy” a few times now in the last few weeks. The spend on advertising (the word advertising is derived from the Latin “advetere”, which means to draw attention to something) is $142.5 billion in the United States alone and $467 billion globally.


Attention is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalization, concentration, of consciousness, are of its essence. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others.

When you attend to something, it is as if your mind aims a spotlight onto it. You actively ignore virtually everything else that is happening around your spotlight, giving you a kind of tunnel vision.

Attention is like water

The problem with attention that it is like water. It flows. It’s liquid. You create channels to divert it, and you hope that it flows the right way. Content is now abundant. Human attention becomes more valuable and finite. Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. In a world where everyone is suffering from ADD, that is difficult for marketers.


Marketers are not only struggling with attention deficit. They are also struggling with an increasing realisation that our unconscious mind rules our behaviour. Making market research obsolete. In the USA alone, that is 11 billion in market research money wasted.It makes sense. In a world of content overload, the human brain creates filters and shortcuts to cope. That is why the brain invented the amygdala. If you have to think about fight or flight, it is already too late. In that context, brands make a lot of sense. Brands are shortcuts for the brain. They are the modern-day version of Proverbs, a version of language and cultural carriers of meaning and emotion. Emotion is the key. Emotion is the message board of the brain filter. Feeling towards a buying decision.

Emotion sells

As with “The science of selling“. Rational messaging seems to have little impact when changing behaviour, and that emotional response, regardless of how it is generated, is what does. The most effective advertisements of all are those with little or no rational content. Targeting stage 1 thinking in Kahneman “Thinking Fast and Slow.”

The book

It is hard to give you a sense of the book. Has touches of “Metaskills” (feeling), Marketing 3.0 (staff as the carrier of the brand), “Difference” (managing choice), talks about AIDA (I am a huge fan of AIDA), “social customer service“, Brian Solis (conversation prism and UMoT), lot of neuroscience and “The impact equation”.

14.5 billion digital adds

The total number of digital advertisements served (sent from a server to a web page being viewed) was 5.3 trillion in 2013 in the United States alone. That is about 14.5 billion digital ads every day. As the marketplace for advertising gets increasingly more cluttered, it becomes increasingly difficult to interrupt the consumer.’

  • about 1 in 5 of all web users now use ad-blocking software.
  • 36% of all Web traffic is considered fake, the product of computers hijacked by viruses and programmed to visit sites.
  • 31% f online ads are unseen because they cannot be seen – they are placed in areas of the site that users cannot see.


I am not sure what the conclusion is, apart from understanding that as a marketer you need to understand neuroscience, content, emotion, branding and channel to a very high degree and the competition to get our intention is increasing.As with selling manipulation, I am expecting and predicting an arms race between mindfulness and marketing manipulation. I don’t think manipulation will work anymore. Brands as behavioural templates. UMoT will be the metric, driven by authenticity. Kotler was right (he wrote Marketing 3.0 in 2010). Time to do some  BITSing.

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

3 thoughts on “Branding as a shortcut to capture attention”

  1. Great article Ron- it’s interesting to see the change in marketing from talking about the product to almost avoiding it altogether! Story telling is growing in power as long as the viewer cares about the characters. There are some silly adverts like the man sat In a purple hippo but he repetition of a hard to sell product works, especially with 20 somethings. The true value of a brand can be seen in the simple 5 note tune at the end of McDonalds ads…they don’t need to do much else!

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