Who is smarter – you or a goldfish?

Don't answer. We wouldn't want to embarrass the humans among us. According to a study by Microsoft, the average attention span of humans is now eight seconds. We're losing to the goldfish, which can hold a thought for nine seconds.

Way back when, it was considered cool to swallow live goldfish. Now, these fish have longer attention spans than we do.

Is this the revenge of the goldfish? If attention span is a sign of intelligence, it may just be.

The Strange 'Old' World

Millennials who were practically born with a smartphone in their hands don't remember the “old world.” But the rest of us do.

Once, people took their time (12 seconds in the 1990s) to absorb information. Not anymore. Now you have to hit them. Hard. Short sentences. Compact thoughts. Get to the point. Give it to me right now. I've got stuff to do and candy to crush.

Unfortunately for marketers, making a point under such circumstances isn't always easy. Especially if you're marketing to millennials. You have to engage their attention, get them to take an action, and urge a follow-through — in just eight seconds.

Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and all the other digest-type platforms are the vehicles marketers can use to deliver their messages. But what can that message be? How do you make a point, talking about your product and differentiating yourself from the competition in just seconds?

Engage and Build Attention

To market successfully to the eight-second generation, you have to engage them enough to get them to add another eight seconds. In other words, you have to use your eight seconds to deliver a message that's good enough to warrant their taking an action.

Then, you can deliver another, related followup message. And again, a prompt to action, and a followup message. Do that enough times and you can keep their attention long enough to make your point.

Presentations are a good way to accomplish this. In a presentation, you can embed video, audio, images, and links – all supporting a message.

A presentation on chewing gum, for example, can be embedded in a tweet that has a cute message, and a link to click on with a promise of more at its conclusion. Clicking on that link brings a viewer to a website, where they can play a quick game, or click on another presentation.

Winning the game or viewing the presentation gives them another bonus — a coupon or a freebie. Finally, the viewer downloads the voucher or coupon to their device. Voila! A new chewing gum customer is born.

Assessing Results

How do you know your approach is working?

Easy. Get a focus group of kids together and try a presentation out to find out.

If it doesn't work, it's back to the drawing board. Most of the online tools used to create this marketing program are free/low cost. You can try as many times as desired/needed. Until you get it right.

Not everyone likes the new, faster pace of life. Many pre-millenials long for a time when people in general (as well as marketers) had time to make their point, to lay out their ideas in an intelligent manner and gently (or less so) persuade their target audience that, indeed, the consumer's best alternative was the product they were marketing.

But forget that. There's no going back. The goldfish have won.

All we human marketers can do is cope. Short and sweet is the new standard. The short we already have. Using this strategy, you can make sure your message is sweet too.

Title image by Kazuend