Can you market to squirrels?

by | Jul 18, 2017

If you can, business must be good…

Watching Animal Planet the other day got me thinking. Did you know the attention span of a squirrel is about one second? This explains their highly indecisive nature. But the attention span of a squirrel focused on an acorn is several minutes. We’ll get back to that later. I don’t believe everything I see on TV the Web but having two Live Oaks in my yard, I can attest to the observation.

Remember when most radio commercials were 60 seconds long? Then it was most common to have a 30 second spot, now 15 seconds seems to be the norm but there are highly effective spots that only run 5 seconds. Same goes for TV. Why should you care anyway?

Here’s why you should care: The Associated Press reported that the attention span of a human isn’t that much more than a squirrel at only about 8 seconds. Here are a few supporting stats: About one fifth of all page views on the web are less than four seconds. People read about half the words on a page that has fewer than 100 words but only 28% of the words of a page that has over 500. We can all thank USA Today for starting this trend about 30 years ago when they started the trend of using lots and lots of colorful graphics and really short economical copy.

That’s why the rate of abandonment is so high on the web, in print and in broadcast media. As an example, even if you paid for a the whole page in a magazine, you don’t have to fill it up. Consider powerful, bold statements, big colorful graphics and a clearly visible headline. Believe me all our ads would look like that if the client let us. Here’s what’s going on:

Passive Attention lasts only a few seconds, in that time the reader decides whether the ad or web page they’re reading is sufficiently interesting (or relevant) to keep them from going any further. Most pages and ads fail to keep the readers attention.

Focused Attention lasts for another 5 to 10 seconds as we take in more information and decide to invest even more time on the page or message. A strong offer, visible call to action, and short, complete information help keep your audience engaged. It’s much more difficult to create short powerful copy than it is to keep spewing on and on. That’s why bounce rates are so high.

Active Attention lasts anywhere from minutes to hours once the user decides to invest time reading and looking further, devoting their full attention to the task. This is the pay off for all your hard work. If you can keep your audience engaged to the point where they have invested the time your capture rates will go way up whether you are trying to fill seats in a restaurant, haircuts, real estate or well acorns…

The three forms of attention can be best illustrated in the cycle of selling a car, from the time you glance at the ad, to reading the features to stopping by the lot, and if that guy named Phil catches up with you between the SUV’s and the sedans, look out. You’ll probably be leaving with a new set of wheels.

Take a look at your current branding, can you clearly get your message across in 2 seconds. Can it be more powerful, brighter, stronger and meaningful to your audience? This may really push you out of your comfort zone but, if its worth doing, its worth doing right.


Remember I said I’d get back to the acorns? Look at your homepage or primary marketing tools and ask yourself is there is one element in your content (an offer, photo, video, information) that can keep your audience at that spot for just a few seconds longer? If you don’t have that “acorn”, find one!

Recent Posts

Promo Creep

Promo Creep

Hustle harder.Run more ads.Spam people.Interrupt.Make the logo bigger.Make it spin.Add some click bait.Wait, lets make videos.Post again.Post...

Web Strategist vs Web Designer

Web Strategist vs Web Designer

A solid website is more than a collective group of great looking pages. It should work seemlessly with your entire marketing strategy while...

Tell A Great Story

Tell A Great Story

Today I was reminded of a great piece I once read by Seth Godan when I was asked by a client to "amp up our presence on Facebook". Were they really...

About the author Perry Johnson
Perry is a classically trained commercial photographer and graphic designer with more than 30 years experience as a marketing strategist. He is a principle at Imagica, a boutique marketing agency based in Sarasota, Florida. Imagica is dedicated to developing fluid, distinct and highly effective branding solutions for your business. With all services in-house, Imagica delivers exceptional value and provides both realistic and sustainable solutions to thrive in today's new markets.