Adobe’s Executive Creative Director Adam Morgan had some truly insightful learnings to share regarding long-held creative beliefs at this year’s industry-leading installment of Content Marketing World. “Some principles that we think are truths, may not actually be truths,” he warns, outlining three commonly kept ideas among the content marketing crowd:
- Above the fold: Nothing can go below it or no one will scroll down.
- Short and punchy headlines: The only headlines that matter are very short and quick-hitting.
- Two-minute videos: People won’t watch past the two-minute mark, so marketers need to keep videos at two minutes or less if they hope to engage viewers.
Attention spans are allegedly so low, that some experts even say marketers should be developing plans and strategies that target the first single second of interaction. But is this really true? And is it what we actually need to be doing with our content if we want to succeed?
Not according to Morgan — but not just because of some personal opinion. He says that, in reality, we don’t pay attention to most of the things around us. But when something new happens, we do. He draws on the expertise of Dr. Scott Steffensen, BYU professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience, who puts it this way:
“When our brain is doing its job at predicting our surroundings, our subconscious is in control. Only when there is an error or something doesn’t match our predicted reality, does the conscious brain kick in. Only then do we become aware and notice the element that’s different.”
With so much information constantly coming at our senses and into our brains, “we only take in a little bit at a time and predict the rest,” Morgan says. And “when we’re dealing with [sensory overload] the only way we pay attention is if we see an anomaly, or something different. That’s when our conscious brain kicks in and we start to pay attention.”
The next step — or, what we then do with the content we choose to engage with — is another story. Quality is key, no doubt. But when it comes to influencing decision-making, it’s crucial to impact how your audience actually feels.
A stronger emotional reaction makes for a stronger memory, and with the right data at hand, it’s possible to create the kind of content that triggers both. “Creativity is making something out of emotion,” Morgan says, because in the words of Paul Gilmcher, father of neuroeconomics, “anomaly plus emotion equals action.”
In marketing terms, that means a unique, quality piece of content met with a desired emotional reaction leads to conversion. And, according to Morgan, “that’s how we should be creating.” Because when you do, the rules or ideas we work by start to matter less and less. Like those three myths Morgan started off with, for instance. Morgan goes on to set the record straight:
- Above the fold: If a piece of content is emotional and unique, people will scroll as long as they like.
- Short and punchy headlines: Longer headlines actually perform better, because they’re able to tell a more emotionally engaging story.
- Two-minute videos: If you create something exciting, people will watch up to ten minutes and beyond.
So, forget what you think you know about human attention spans and how they rival those of a goldfish. “If you want more engagement, you have to have deeper discussions,” Morgan says. Because content marketing is all about holding attention. The key lies in producing content that stops someone in their tracks with its uniqueness — and keeps them along for the ride with its depth and value.
Looking for more of the best of CMWorld 2021? Check out our session: Content Marketing Predictions for 2022 (And How to Navigate Them).