Thomas Z. Ramsøy

Beyond the Blink: Dual Mechanisms of Consumer Attention

Once upon a time, the notion of consumer attention was treated as a given, a byproduct of good product design or a compelling advertising campaign.

Those were simpler times.

These days, attention is not just a consequence, it’s the currency of the age, the centrifugal force that binds the marketing galaxy. This is the era of the attention economy.

Attention: A Multifaceted Phenomenon

As we venture further into the 21st century, attention has become a precious resource, siphoned off by a plethora of screens, feeds, and notifications.

It’s as if our attentiveness is a once tranquil lake now transformed into a tempestuous sea, each wave crashing with a new Tweet, TikTok, or text. To marketers, these waves represent an opportunity and a challenge.

But attention, much like the sea, is not a single, uniform entity. If you dissect attention, you’ll find that it is as complex and multifaceted as the human mind that gives it form.

Our attention can be broad or specific, fleeting or sustained, distracted or focused. It can be driven by impulsivity, curiosity, novelty, or relevance.

To put it simply, we’re not just dealing with ‘attention’ – we’re dealing with ‘attentions.’

Two Shoppers, Two Attentions: Unpacking Bottom-Up and Top-Down Attention

To illustrate this, imagine two different consumers shopping for a new car. The first shopper is driven by curiosity, impulsively drawn to the vibrant colors and flashy designs – a process we call ‘bottom-up’ attention. It’s attention that is involuntarily attracted by sensory stimuli.

The second shopper is on a mission. They’ve done their research, they know exactly what they want, and they’re hunting for a specific make, model, or feature. This is ‘top-down’ attention, purposeful and goal-oriented.

For years, the nuances of these two attention types remained elusive, buried beneath the surface like sunken treasures. We could glean some insights through eye-tracking studies, but these were costly, time-consuming, and unable to fully capture the subtleties of our complex attentional processes.

Predict: The Game Changer in Attention Analysis

Enter Predict by Neurons. It’s no secret that I am one of the (very proud) minds behind this AI SaaS tool. Predict is a groundbreaking AI product that is based on our world-class eye-tracking and EEG neuroscience database.

It harnesses the power of neurotechnology and artificial intelligence to create accurate predictive models of consumer responses and behaviors.

Thus, with this tool, we can do more than just track attention.

We can predict it.

Taking this groundbreaking innovation one step further, Neurons has recently released an update for Predict.

Now, it not only gauges attention over the span of an entire 5-second ad exposure, but it also pinpoints attention in the crucial first and last 2 seconds. This allows us to understand not only how attention unfolds over time, but also how it initiates and concludes – capturing the entire narrative arc of consumer engagement.

Predict in Action: Tracing the Course of Attention

Predict can analyze images and videos, not just for the quantity of attention, but also for the quality.

It’s capable of revealing how consumers engage with a product or ad during the first two seconds – those precious moments of ‘bottom-up’ attention – and how that engagement evolves over the next few seconds, as ‘top-down’ attention takes the reins.

The implications of this are vast and varied. Marketers can now design campaigns that not only attract attention, but hold it, direct it, and mold it to their message. They can create sensory stimuli that draw consumers in, and narrative or informative elements that keep them engaged.

A Tale of Two Attentions: The Hyundai Palisade Ad Analysis

Let’s use Predict to dissect a recent Hyundai advertisement. The ad prominently features the product name “Palisade”, the Hyundai brand logo in the top right, and an image of the car at the bottom of the screen. The results from Predict unveiled a fascinating tale of shifting attention over time.

During the initial 2 seconds, attention was predicted to be primarily captured by the product name “Palisade”. A minor degree of attention was also shown towards the car image, particularly its front logo, and the Hyundai brand logo at the top right.

However, the last 2 seconds painted a different picture. The “Palisade” name seemed to fade from attention, while the focus intensified on the car and its front logo. The Hyundai brand logo maintained moderate attention, carrying its presence from the beginning to the end of the ad exposure.

This analysis highlights a crucial insight for Hyundai and brands alike: it’s not enough to grab attention – you must hold it. The Hyundai brand, being only properly attended in the final seconds, relies heavily on the ad’s ability to sustain viewers’ interest for at least 4-5 seconds.

The Hyundai Palisade Ad: Visualizing the Shift from Initial to Final Attention. The left image displays the first 2 seconds dominated by ‘Palisade’, while the right image depicts the final 2 seconds with heightened focus on the car and Hyundai front logo.

The Hyundai Palisade Ad: Visualizing the Shift from Initial to Final Attention. The left image displays the first 2 seconds dominated by ‘Palisade’, while the right image depicts the final 2 seconds with heightened focus on the car and Hyundai front logo.

Beyond Marketing: The Broader Implications of Predict

But beyond marketing, the ability to predict attention and other consumer responses could fundamentally transform how we understand human behavior. We’re stepping into a new frontier, where we can explore the complexities of attention, emotion, and cognition, not as abstract concepts, but as quantifiable, tangible phenomena. Moreover, we can see them as predictable phenomena. And as we venture further into this territory, who knows what other secrets of the human mind we might unearth?

In this attention economy, it’s not enough to make a splash. We need to understand the waves. With tools like Predict, we’re not just riding the current – we’re charting the sea.