How Marketers Can Adapt to the Attention Economy by Jenna Abdou


When LiveIntent CMO Suneet Bhatt described email as our digital passports, it clicked. 

“Our emails have gone from a place where we receive messages online to the way we identify ourselves,” he explained. 

In thinking about my own inbox, I completely agree. 

Whether it’s the First Round Review emails or a newsletter from one of the brands I follow, like Lunya or Parachute, I await my weekly updates.

Despite many of them landing in my promotions folder, I make it a habit to actively search for them. I subscribe to the emails because they are meaningful to me. I rarely ever miss them.

The emergence of people-based marketing, which Suneet coins as the most significant shift since digital marketing, has turned the subscription process into a “social contract.” 

“It’s an exchange,” he explained. “You trust them with your email address and they will send you things that are relevant to you.”

Relevancy isn’t exclusive to content. If you’re receiving an advertisement or sponsored post, it should be equally tailored to your interests. 

Clique Media Group exemplifies this in their Who What Wear emails. The ad for a Louis Vuitton gift list fits naturally with the content about holiday parties. 

People based marketing is rooted in the ideology that we need permission to send content and ads to the individuals on our list. 

Returning to the subscription process, your readers are taking a significant amount of time to provide their information and interests. They’re often required to double opt-in as well. 

To compensate for our time, we anticipate specific content that’s enriching and engaging. Most importantly, it’s expected. 

The same philosophy applies to marketers who are placing ads. 

When it comes to placing ads, you have a reader who is already engaged. Deliver them what they want, when they want it. 

Returning to the Louis Vuitton ad in the Who What Wear email, the gift list seamlessly blends with the holiday articles making it natural for me to scroll through and click. At first, I didn’t even recognize it was an ad. 

“Consumption of information, both of the content you are reading and the content around you, goes up after a certain amount of engaged time,” Suneet asserted. 

Data demonstrates similar trends for retention making it vital for marketers to optimize attention, rather than open rates.

When you find people who are naturally engaged the performance results will always be higher.

As a marketer, you need to analyze your email after the images have been downloaded. Your brand reaps no benefits from an opened message that is left unread. 

Mobile drastically raises the bar for email marketing which LiveIntent describes as “more mobile, more problems.” 

“What mobile has to get right is the idea of permission,” Suneet explained. 

You have to send the right message, to the right person, at the right time, in the right place.

Thus sending me an email about an abandoned item in my shopping cart is ineffective if I open it on my commute to work. Many of us don’t feel comfortable or are incapable of entering credit card information on public transportation resulting in an ignored or unread message.

Mobile raises the standards for marketers and advertisers to be more thoughtful and respectful.

A simple way to approach this is understanding where you fit in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

Take Google Alerts, for example. For many, the alerts are company and industry related updates. You don’t want to be interrupted reading about your competitor’s recent fundraising with an ad about the peanut butter you searched on Amazon. Your PB&J can wait. 

This is where the responsibility is placed on marketers to “leverage the tools they have to make their messages dynamic.” 

Your first message to a new subscriber should detail exactly how they got on the list and how they can unsubscribe. Services like MailChimp have streamlined this process. 

Next, as with most startup related experiments, you need to adopt a test and learn mentality. 

“There’s no secret for this,” Suneet explained. “It’s incredibly scientific.” 

“If you come in with an expectation of what’s going to work and ignore the data you’re going to fail.” 

Attention is our scarcest resource. It’s what we’re constantly fighting for.

You can’t create it, but you can find it.

To gain deeper insight from Suneet and the LiveIntent team follow them on Twitter and utilize the marketing resources in their Knowledge Base

You can also tune into Suneet’s Beyond the Headline episode here



Further Reading
  • How MeUndies Made Merchandising Their Competitive Advantage — When MeUndies thinks about their underwear subscription service they compare themselves to Netflix. What the streaming pioneer did for TV, the Los Angeles startup wants to do to your underwear drawer. The goal is to provide monthly subscribers with the staples they love while delivering elements of surprise - Think briefs with donuts and dinosaurs - right to your doorstep.
  • Seedling Relies on Childhood Curiosity to Inspire a Creative Team — On a recent flight home, I spent over an hour browsing a children’s play website, completely enamored by sets like Design Your Own Superhero Cape and Invent Your Own Insects. After sharing Seedling with everyone I know, despite few of my friends having children, I wondered why the brand struck a such a meaningful chord with me.
  • eero Designs Wi-Fi for the Smart Home Era — Nikhil Basu Trivedi, Principal at Shasta Ventures, recently distinguished exceptional founders by their ability to prioritize. “It all comes back to prioritization, speed, paranoia, and knowing that if you don’t iterate, even after finding product market fit, you can be disrupted by the next product,” he says.


back to the blog