Meaningful Attention

Why Marketers Must Understand the Difference Between Empty Behaviors and Meaningful Attention

How can we understand what’s going on in the consumer’s head when they click on an advertisement or visit an online store? How do we know whether an advertisement actually influenced a customer’s actions – or if it failed to make an impact?

Today’s marketing environment is flooded with data points and technology solutions designed to help brands understand the effectiveness of their campaigns. But this abundance of information can make it difficult to cut through the noise and understand the signals. To truly measure how consumers are interacting with and reacting to an advertisement, marketers must focus on meaningful attention — the attention that leads directly to a measurable action.

Here’s why meaningful attention matters and how brands and retailers can hone in on it.

What Makes Attention Meaningful?

One of the most important metrics right now is attention, which has become so central to many approaches that some call our economy an “attention economy”. But mere focused attention is not enough to explain what is going on in the market.

In short, our goal in market research is to generate attention that is effective, targeted, meaningful and processed at a deeper level. Because this is the only way to build long-term customer relationships.

There will always be limits to our abilities to understand the motives behind a customer’s behavior. We can’t see inside their mind, we can’t interview every customer about every choice they make – and most would likely find it impossible to truly explain the meaning behind their decisions, as most decisions are made by what is referred to as “the implicit” System 1. However, we can identify attention that we know to be meaningful by looking backwards from an objectively meaningful moment – such as a purchase or transaction.

Understand why meaningful attention matters and how brands and retailers can hone in on it.

Our attention is Currency

Tech platforms are caught in a race to monetize ur attention and get us addicted to their products

By definition, attention is meaningful if it leads directly to a response.

Human nature and user data are exploited to maximize engagement and sell targeted content

Meaningful attention follows through

Platforms profit from our attention, unleashing wide-ranging harm to society, from addiction to polarization

How can organizations move beyond surface-level measurements to begin understanding meaningful attention? The key is to identify the three key moments that lead to a purchase and then to establish metrics for each of those moments:

The main goal is to get through at any cost.


Adding Consumer Interest to Attention

Attention + X = Sys 0 + X = Sys 0 + (Sys 1 + Sys 2)


Meaningful attention is directed towards something good, true, beautiful to fulfill the desire for living a good life.

Meaningful attention is directed towards something that is important, relevant, or significant ↔ connected to “personal value”, “identity congruence”

GOOD ↔ pleasure, comfort, positive emotions ↔ Hedonic Wellbeing, Happiness ↔ System 1

TRUE ↔ personal significance ↔ values ↔ Eudaemonic Wellbeing ↔ System 2

BEAUTIFUL ↔ aesthetics, sensory pleasure ↔ System 0


Meaningful attention is FOCUSED and positively ENGAGED rather than distracted or scattered.

But: engagement is NOT always indicative of personal value = “time WELL spent”


Meaningful Attention creates positive long-term value and real-life impact.

Meaningful attention creates long-term value for the user/customer and a (lasting) positive impact on people’s lives.


Meaningful Attention is effective perception.

Interested in achieving meaningful attention yourself? We’d love to talk to you!

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