Is there a science behind captivating the attention of the public in a world filled with unlimited content and online videos? Ben Parr thinks so. Parr is a world-renown entrepreneur and journalist. He is the Co-founder of DominateFund—venture capital fund, and a columnist for CNET, Mashable, Forbes, and multiple other publications.
Recently, Parr gave a fascinating talk at the SF PR Summit discussing the history of public relations and what it takes to capture readers’ attention nowadays. In fact, he even wrote a book about it called Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention,which will be released in March 2015.
Parr began his presentation by dropping about 10 sticks of deodorant from a box onto the ground. It certainly got the attention of everyone in the audience. He then went into a brief history of deodorant marketing campaigns.
When deodorant was first released to the public in the 1920’s, the manufacturers had two hurdles to overcome in order to sell it: people thought the chemicals would make them sick and women did not socially discuss hygiene whatsoever. How did marketers make deodorant appealing to a mass audience? First, they heavily advertised the fact that a doctor had invented deodorant–immediately quashing the rumor that it was bad to put on your body. Second, marketers took out a full-page ad in the Woman’s Home Journal talking frankly about women’s hygiene. This did two things: 1) It made it okay for women to discuss taboo topics like deodorant, body wash and shaving and 2) It created an outrage that gained deodorant a wave of public attention.
Parr used the example of deodorant to stress a very important point: it is crucial to reframe conversations around your brand. You must know the preconceptions of your target audience and challenge these in order to captivate people. But how do you reframe preconceptions? Parr gives a few tips and techniques.
To start, Parr urges brands to repeat messages over and over. Actually, if something is repeated to someone enough times, they are more likely to belief that fact. The repetition of the same message through different social media outlets, print advertising, and online can be a very powerful way to get people interested in your product and start to believe in it.
It is also important to defy the reader’s expectations. For example, a popular clothing company made an advertising campaign with the slogan “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” This was very effective in capturing a reader’s interest because nobody would expect a company to say something like this. Parr explains that this type of defiance of expectations can go a long way in retaining potential customers and keeping them interested.
As a final takeaway remember this key piece of advice from Ben Parr, “if you want to cut through the clutter follow these 3 expert tips: leverage experts, reframe the conversation, and violate expectations“.
Originally published Jul 14, 2014, updated Aug 09, 2021