Is “Visceral content” how to stand out in an “attention-starved world”?

Provoking strong emotions with "visceral content is all that counts in today's attention-starved world", according to an article in Marketing by Rob Mansfield, group digital content manager at Age UK. I went in search of some data to back up this claim.

Are we attention-starved?

Rob describes a world "filled with media" where we are exposed to thousands of messages a day, making the job of standing out and getting remembered a tough one. "Communication overload" is a common theme today, but is it really true? Some fascinating research by Ofcom called "Digital Day" proves that this most definitely is the case, as the data below shows. UK adults spent 26% more time consuming media and communications per day in 2010 vs 2014. But check out the 16-24 age group, who consumed a whopping 48% more time in 2014 and are by far the most ravenous age group. That's a whole lot more messages coming at us from all directions, be it smartphones, tablets, laptops and the good old TV.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 18.11.31

2. Does "visceral content" help impact?

In his article Rob asks, "How do we make best use of our precious budgets and create content that will make some noise?" He suggests the answer is "visceral content that provokes a strong emotion to drive our share and care mentality". Some hard data shows just how hard it is to get people to "care and share". Guess what % of YouTube videos manage to get 1million+ views.

10%? 5%? 1%?

The right answer is a meagre 0.33%, or 1 in 300, as I posted on here.

And to have a chance of being a viral lottery winner, emotion does indeed seem to help, according to research by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute on 800 online videos, as quoted in a research paper from Decoded. This showed that high emotional "activation" generated twice as many onward transfers as a low activation.

3. What sort of emotion works best? 

Rob suggests caring and sharing content occurs when "something visceral happens to you: joy, disgust, surprise, hatred". But can we be more precise about which of these emotions is most effective? The Ehrenberg-Bass research distinguished between emotions that were positive (inspiration, astonishment, exhilaration) or negative (disgust, sadness, shock). And the results? Positive emotions beat negative ones, with positively emotional videos being shared 30% more. An example of such a film is DC Shoes' "Pipe Dream", featuring motocross biker Robbie Madison surfing the waves on his bike, which has been viewed 18 million times. 


4. Cutting through the clutter

The challenge of creating emotional impact is that your brand is not just up against other brand communication. As Rob points out, you are competing with "shocking images of refugees, a video of a cat falling off a sofa, or a blood-thirsty episode of Game of Thrones." Indeed, the majority of highly viewed videos are not from brands at all, but rather from this sort of news and entertainment.

Rob goes onto to make a smart suggestion: "Stop and put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re targeting and where they’re likely to see your content. On a packed Tube scrolling through their Facebook feed? Checking Twitter on the sofa during the X-Factor ad break?" He then urges brands to create compelling content that can "throw them off their game long enough to notice your ad, your story, or your video?" 

5. Selling more stuff

The trick with all this lovely content is of course to make sure it helps you SMS (sell more stuff). This starts with telling a story where the brand is the hero, and then making the "path to purchase" from the content to buying as short and easy as possible. Looking at the DC shoes video above, I'm not sure about the brand linkage. You could think it was content by Red Bull perhaps. And the skill of the rider and the motorbike seem to play a more important role in pulling off the stunt than the shoes.  At least at the end of the video there is a link to the website where you can buy the shoe. 

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 19.15.21 Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 19.17.51

In conclusion, the key to successful communication remains the same it has always been, I suggest. Tell a compelling story about your brand in a way that stirs the emotions.