August 10, 2016 / by Mary-Morgan Limperis

Last Wednesday, August 3, I attended BizBash’s Elevate Conference in Washington, DC. If you aren’t familiar with BizBash, it is North America’s No. 1 source of ideas, news and resources for event and meeting professionals. The media company’s Elevate DC conference provides event professionals in the Washington region with the best ideas on everything from marketing and technology to event design to leveraging social media at events.

The day began with what one could argue was the best presentation of the day from author/entrepreneur and attention expert Ben Parr. The “Captivology” author, an expert on the science of attention and capturing an audience, began his presentation with a humorous note to immediately get the audience engaged.

Parr’s session addressed the three stages of attention and seven captivation triggers that can be used by event, marketing and communications professionals alike to better engage their target audiences.


Ben walked us through what he termed “universal constants,” as well as the stages of attention and captivation triggers.

3 Stages of Attention

1. Immediate

2. Short

3. Long

The first two are rather self explanatory, so Parr focused on the third. Long-term attention is the most important because it’s linked to making memories. Think in terms of a bonfire: immediate attention is the spark, short attention is the kindling and long-term attention is the bonfire memory, which you remember after the flame is out!

And while we all now have attention spans shorter than a goldfish, it’s important to go beyond the immediate stage of attention. Building trust and winning loyal customers requires brands to also focus on a series of short and long-term attention stages.


The 7 Captivation Triggers

After addressing the types of attention, Parr moved on to explain the seven triggers to capturing that attention.

1. Automaticity

Immediate attention is an automatic response to…fill in the blank…The subconscious associates colors with feelings and actions. For example, your eye seems to naturally be drawn to the yellow and orange “buy” buttons on Amazon’s site. Why? These are two colors associated with cheerfulness, like the sun, so your brain creates a positive association between that color and the button–ergo you buy something from Amazon.

2. Framing

Adapt to your audience’s frame of reference and then reframe the conversation. For example, when Hostess said they were going out of business, everyone ran out to buy Twinkies. Even people who had never eaten Twinkies participated because of what we now know, thanks to Millennials, as FOMO (fear of missing out). When something is scarce, we attribute more value to it than when it’s abundant.

3. Disruption

Disruption also known as “the bizarreness effect” is an attempt to get a response. However, this disruption must match your brand’s values. Think back to when Patagonia launched their “Don’t Buy This Jacket Ad” in The New York Times – weird, right?

While it seems contradictory for a company selling jackets to advise consumers not to buy them, that is precisely why it worked. The bizarreness of such a campaign achieves its goal: bringing attention to Patagonia’s jackets. By capitalizing on the disruption trigger, it got people talking about the campaign, and therefore the jacket, and sales doubled.


4. Reward

Everyone loves rewards! However, Parr challenged marketers to think beyond incentives and offer an element of surprise. It’s more likely to be noticed. If you receive something good as a surprise, you are more likely to remember it.

5. Reputation

We inherently trust our peers over brands. Think about where you go to look up restaurants in a new city. OpenTable or Yelp come to mind? However, research shows  that we are more likely to trust an academic or expert. It’s not surprising that among the least trustworthy are CEOs and government officials. Leverage experts and influencers for your brand to increase a positive reputation among your target audience.  

6. Mystery

Humans really dislike uncertainty and try to reduce it constantly, so capitalize on that. Think about why you ask all those questions on a first date. It’s to reduce the gap of information between you and this mysterious person sitting across from you. However, once you close the mystery gap, people stop paying attention.

7. Acknowledgement

Show appreciation in a public way. Couple mystery and acknowledgement and you’ll get long-term attention.

MARCH TS_Real Time Influence_FINAL_Twitter- Lead Gen

Most Recent Posts

Cision Blogs Topics

  • Communications Best Practices

    Get the latest updates on PR, communications and marketing best practices.

  • Cision Product News

    Keep up with everything Cision. Check here for the most current product news.

  • Executive Insights

    Thought leadership and communications strategy for the C-suite written by the C-suite.

  • Media Blog

    A blog for and about the media featuring trends, tips, tools, media moves and more.

About Mary-Morgan Limperis

Mary-Morgan Limperis is the Manager, Events at Cision. In this role she drives the company's webinars, sponsorships and live-event programs. In her free time, she enjoys trying new restaurants, traveling and spending time with her West Highland Terrier, Harper.