Knowledge Bank Blog, Shopper Communication

Addressing Low Attention

Are you communicating for low attention?

How often do you properly pay attention to things?

Probably much less than you think you do.

Have you ever been introduced to someone and not properly listened to their name? Then five minutes later had to introduce that person to someone else?

Have you ever been on a conference call, thinking about anything other than the conversation on the call? Then you vaguely hear the sentence “what do you think of that…” followed by your name. It’s amazing how often the line isn’t good…”sorry, I didn’t quite catch that, could you repeat the question”. Then hope your experience gets you through the answer.

Have you ever realised that your partner has stopped talking and is looking for a response. You decide to go with the % answer “yes, I agree” or “you’re right”. Which often works. But, not this time…”what you mean you agree, how can you possibly agree with that?”

Life is full of little moments that test how well we pay attention. We often fail these tests.  We don’t listen properly. We don’t pay proper attention to things.

Why are we talking about this? Well, in our industry, there are two assumptions people often make. Whether they are communicating internally or externally to shoppers.

Firstly, that people pay attention. That people are properly reading the slide with the complicated graph and eight bullet points. Or that a shopper is walking around store, ready and waiting to engage with our brilliant communication.

Secondly, that people remember things. They remember the great insight on slide 32 of the pre-read. They remember the five growth drivers that you shared in the last meeting (six months ago). Or that a shopper remembers all the pieces of our communication that they have been exposed to.

But they rarely do. They often don’t pay attention. They typically don’t remember things. So, is our job to get people to pay more attention? Or is our job to communicate so that people don’t have to pay much attention? We think it’s the latter.

So, how can you do this?

Say Less. It is easy to say more. It’s easy to put 150 slides into the research debrief. It’s easy to have 20 slides on category performance before you get into the category strategy. It’s easy to put 5 different benefits on a piece of packaging. But the more you say, the more attention people need to pay, and the less likely they are to do so. It is much harder to say less. But less cuts through.

This means vision statements that are 1 (ideally) or 2 sentences. Not long paragraphs. It means strategy documents that are short and focused. It means not saying everything you can say about the category. It means putting short descriptions into concept tests. Not long descriptions that don’t reflect the reality of what a shopper would see in store. It means packs and POS with few visual elements. Not an overload of visuals and messages.

Say it in order. Good communication and design has hierarchy. It directs people’s attention – to what you want them to see in the order you want them to see it. Newspapers follow this principle. They know most people aren’t going to read the story, so they don’t bury the headline halfway through. The headline is the headline. The same applies in our world.

This means strategy documents that set things up in a clear order. For instance, in a category strategy – what the growth driver is, what it is about, what are the key actions to unlock growth. This means designing slides with a clear hierarchy – so that people focus attention on the key point. It means packs and POS with a clear visual hierarchy. It means propositions built around the most important benefit.

Say it Repetitively. We’ve talked before about the emphasis on ‘new’ in our industry. People often prefer to bring out a new product rather than sell more of an existing product. They often want to communicate new things rather than the same things. Because we in the industry are very familiar with the strategy, the NPD pipeline, the proposition, we assume everyone else is.

But the retailer who sees your strategy once every 6 months (and sees all your competitors’ strategies in between) is much less familiar. The shopper who buys into the category once a month is much less familiar. Repetition is boring for people who are close to things. But essential for people who aren’t.

This means repeatedly communicating your strategy internally. It means repeatedly communicating it externally – manufacturer to retailer, retailer to manufacturer. It means consistency of communication over time to shoppers. It means consistency of design over time. It means consistency of communication across touchpoints.

Saying something new and different is overvalued. Saying the same thing is undervalued.

So if you think these blogs are becoming repetitive, you can rest assured that we haven’t run out of ideas. It is a deliberate communication strategy.


We are going to take a short break from blogging over Easter but will be back, chocolate fuelled, mid April.  Enjoy the bank holidays and have a Happy Easter!