Is there an attention economy? Should you even care? I don’t think so.
Marketers have always exchanged money for tactics (i.e., advertising, commercials, copywriting and creative). Ideally, extremely effective tactics. TV advertising was once an effective tactic. When everyone watched the same TV shows, you were guaranteed to get attention since there was nothing else for folks to watch. So it looked, to old school marketers, that you were exchanging money for attention. But it wasn’t attention you were buying. It was the tactics designed to get that attention.
The same thing is true today of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. How cool is it that you’re buying exactly what’s on the customer’s mind? Pretty cool? But you’re still only paying for the tactic. Once the tactic stops drawing attention, you’ll be paying for an ineffective tactic. It happened to TV. It happened to print. It will probably happen to SEM, too, eventually. For instance, social search engines may render PPC advertising less effective, since they rely on people to provide the best suggestion, while the ads are automated. Would you trust a paid “social recommendation”? Me neither. Anyhoo, the point is whether your tactics:
- Work better than other things you can spend your money on
So the real question is, are you spending your money on the right tactics to capture your customers’ attention? And shouldn’t the first tactic be to make something they’ll care about buying?
Amazon stopped some advertising in favor of spending its money on free shipping. And there was much rejoicing. Starbucks used to (and may still) use marketing dollars to pay for training baristas. And so on.
Many tactics exist to get your customers’ attention. The best one remains giving them something remarkable.
 “Remarkable” is (damned close to) a registered trademark of Seth Godin. But he’s right.