On Episode 56, Cahill Puil joins me for a chat about short attention-span marketing, or the attention economy. Cahill thinks the attention economy is nearing an end, and we’re moving to, as he puts it, the visiconomy. We’re inundated with information—messages flying at us every minute of every day—and that’s just not sustainable. So, how should marketers deal with it and what’s next? We get to that in part one of my chat with Cahill.

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Cover image from Flickr, public domain.


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Mark: Cahill, welcome to Confessions of a Marketer. It's great to have you here.

Cahill: Thank you. It's great to be on the podcast.

Mark: So, tell me about the attention economy, which you say is dying. What's happening and what's next?

Cahill: That's a great question. I think everyone can realize or you've experienced the just overwhelming amount of information that we're inundated with on a daily basis. There's hundreds of thousands of tweets, thousands of Facebook posts, YouTube videos, ads, Facebook posts, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The idea of the attention economy a few years ago was, "Hey, if you can grab someone's attention, now you can all of a sudden really communicate with that person and potentially bring them down your funnel and sell.

Mark: Yeah.

Cahill: What I think is happening is that that is really becoming overwhelmed with information. It's no longer can you just throw out a great tweet or a great post and capture someone's attention because there's too many of them. Now, what's happening is you need to really have very solid story behind what you're talking about to really cut through the attention and connect with people who really identify with your vision of the world.

Mark: What you term the visicomomy, attention becomes irrelevant. So, how does that work and how can marketers put your ideas into practice?

Cahill: So, the visicomomy, the idea of this is that when your vision of your industry or the world or the way you believe things should go, when that connects with your ideal target customer, that creates economic value. That's what the visicomomy is, the vision plus your customer-creating economic value.

Cahill: How it works is ... I'll best explain it from an example. If we look at the last election that happened. Regardless of what you think the election outcome, whether it was good or bad, Cambridge Analytica, the company who leveraged Facebook Insights and Facebook data, they really got the visicomomy right. What they did is they said, "Hey, we're going to share a lot of content that we think identifies with the way you believe the world has gone and that will create movement. It will create an outcome that we want, aka voting."

Cahill: They leveraged that with fantastic results. Some say, and we're looking at this right now, they're looking into voter manipulation, et cetera. But really, it's the visicomomy. They shared their vision of the world with people who they thought were also going to have that same vision and it really created a massive amount of impact.

Cahill: How marketers can do this now is we've really got to go back to your why. I don't know if any of the listeners have seen Simon Sinek's TED Talk, but this is another fantastic example. His TED Talk started at a TEDx event, so it's one of the smaller TED Talks in a very no-name city. It was not even listed on any of the top TED Talks ever. It is now the number three TED Talk ever simple because people who have watched it believe the things that he's talking about. They believe in his vision and they watch it over and over and over.

Cahill: This is the same kind of thing that marketers need to do. We need to get back to that why are you doing what you're doing and what is the vision that you see of the world or of your industry? Does that make sense?

Mark: Yeah, it's really about understanding your audience, isn't it?

Cahill: I think it goes a level deeper than that. Understanding your audience, you can do with Facebook Analytics, you can do with keyword analytics, you can do with trends and timelines and when is it better to send out an email for your audience, at 7:00 AM or 4:00 PM. That's understanding our audience, but I think connecting with their core vision of how finances should be or what the consumer package good industry should look like or what fitness should really look like, that's a deeper understanding.

Mark: So, how do you get to that understanding?

Cahill: I think the first thing you've really got to do is look at your why are you doing what you're doing. Whether that's selling a product or selling a service, you've got to look at the reasons why you're really pushing forward on it. It does not come down to features. It's not benefits. It's not that you have the better price or you have a better product or a better onboarding process. That's not it at all.

Cahill: There's an underlying reason, some type of deep problem that you're trying to solve or some type of result that you're trying to see the industry move forward to. You've really got to get to that first and I feel like some companies have it, and I can give a couple examples in a minute, but not everyone has really gone after that core understanding yet.

Mark: There is a fine line between knowing your customer and exploiting the data and really exploiting the data, maybe like the way Cambridge Analytica did.

Cahill: Absolutely. Cambridge Analytica I think is just a very relevant example because they did it for nefarious purposes. However, the kind of proof is in the pudding. They really understood that we don't even have to tell you to go and vote. We don't have to do that at all. All we have to do is if we know or understand that you believe, let's say, immigration is bad, all we have to do is keep on feeding that narrative with more and more extreme cases that show you that, well, we also believe that immigration is bad.

Cahill: All of a sudden, you're going to start following us, you're going to start sharing those articles, you're going to start marketing for us, and you're going to start taking action. That's a very powerful thing to understand. Again, they did it for nefarious purposes, but we can do that for good purposes. An example is Nike or Nike, depending on how you say it. They've really, really been strong with their leveraging of this economy.

Cahill: They've constantly shared this idea that it doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter where you're from, it doesn't matter your circumstances. And, I'm getting goosebumps and shivers as I say this. It doesn't matter. All you need to do is take the first step. All you need to do is try. You just need to do it. They've consistently spread that message. Again, whether you believe in what he did or not. Whether it's from the Kaepernick taking the knee in the NFL or whether it's Serena Williams wearing her catsuit, regardless of whether you believe whether they should have done it or not, they stuck to their vision.

Cahill: By the way, it's resulted in massive amounts of sales for them. I believe the number is, over the couple months after that Kaepernick ad was released, they had an all-time high in their stock price and billions of dollars of product was sold. That's huge. They weren't saying, "Hey, buy our shoes." They were saying, "Hey, this is what we believe in. We believe that X, Y, and Z." And, they consistently do this.

Mark: You can't fake that. It's something that has to come from the heart.

Cahill: 100%. This is why when marketers are looking at, "Okay, well how can I actually leverage the visicomomy," the first thing you need to do ... And, I would definitely recommend you watch Simon Sinek's talk on how great leaders inspire, but the first thing you need to do is really figure out your why.

Mark: Yeah.

Cahill: Why are you offering your product or your service? What is the underlying reason and what do you believe the industry should look like? When you can talk to that point, that's when you start to share your vision and that's what starts to drive that economic value. That's exactly what Nike does or Nike.